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Full text of "Scotia coal mine disaster, March 9 and 11, 1976 : a staff report"

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[COMMITTEE PRINT] 



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SCOTIA COAL MINE DISASTER 



DEC 



- * 



'---youm* 



1976. £$ 



MARCH 9 AND 11, 1976 



A STAFF REPORT 




OCTOBER 15, 1976 



This report has not been officially adopted by the Committee on 
Education and Labor (or the Subcommittee on Labor Standards) and 
may not therefore necessarily reflect the the views of its members 



Prepared by the staff of the House Committee on Education and Labor, 
Subcommittee on Labor Standards, John H. Dent, Chairman 



77-245 



U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 
WASHINGTON : 1976 



COMMITTi;i: ON EDUCATION AND LABOR 



CARL D. 
FRANK THOMPSON, Jb., New Jersey 
John ii. DENT, Pennyslvania 
DOMINICK v. DANIELS, New Jersey 
John BRADEMAS, [ndlana 
JAME8 G. O'HARA, Michigan 
A.UQUBTUS F. HAWKINS, California 
WILLIAM I). FOR I), Michigan 
PATSY T. MINK, Hawaii (onleave) 
LLOYD MEEDS, Washington 
PHILLIP BURTON, California 
JOSEPH M. QAYDOS, Pennsylvania 
WILLIAM "HILL" CLAY, Missouri 
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM,New York 
MARK) BIAOGI, New York 
IKK ANDREWS, North Carolina 
WILLIAM LEHMAN, Florida 
JAIME BENITEZ, Puerto Rico 
MICHAEL BL0UIN,l0W8 
ROBERT CORNELL, Wisconsin 
PA CTL SIMON. Illinois 
EDWARD BEARD, Rhode Island 
LEO ZEFERETTI.New York 
GEORGE MILLER, California 
RONALD MOTTL, Ohio 
TIM HALL, Illinois 



PERKINS, Kentucky, Chairman 

ALBERT H.QUIE, Minnesota 
JOHN M. ASHBROOK, Ohio 
ALPHONZO BELL, California 
JOHN N. ERLENBORN, Illinois 
MARVix L. ESCH, Michigan 
EDWIN D. ESHLEMAN, Pennsylvania 
PETER A. PEYSER, New York 
RONALD A. SARASIN, Connecticut 
JOHN B QC HANAN, Alabama 
JAMES M. JEFFORDS. Vermont 
LARRY PRESSLER, South Dakota 
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania 
VIRGINIA SMITH, Nebraska 



Subcommittee on Labor Standards 



JOHN H.DENT, 
DOMINICK V. DANIELS, New Jersey 
PHILLIP BURTON, California 
JOSEPH M. GAYDOS, Pennsylvania 
WILLIAM "BILL" CLAY, Missouri 
MARIO BIAGGI, New York 
JAIME BENITEZ, Puerto Rico 
LEO ZEFERETTI, New York 
GEORGE MILLER, California 
ROBERT CORNELL, Wisconsin 
FAIL SIMON. Illinois 
CARL D. PERKINS, Kentucky, 
Ex Officio 



Pennsylvania, Chairman 

JOHN N. ERLENBORN, Illinois 
RONALD A. SARASIN, Connecticut 
JOHN M. ASHBROOK, Ohio 
ALPHONZO BELL, California 
WILLIAM GOODLING, Pennsylvania 
ALBERT H. QUIE, Minnesota, 
Ex Officio 



(ID 



CONTENTS 



Page 

I. Introduction and summary 1 

II. Background and chronology of events 6 

III. Safety history of the Scotia Mine 10 

IV. MESA's enforcement efforts at the Scotia Mine 15 

V. The March 9 and March 11, 1976, explosions at the Scotia Mine 33 

Scotia Coal Mine: 

Summary of violation notices and closure orders, May 13, 1970- 

March9, 1976 53 

Summary of safety and health violations, January 1974- February 

1976 53 

Summary of ventilation violations, January 1974-February 1976 53 

(in) 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/scotiacodiOOunit 






Introduction and Summary 

On March 9, 1976, at 11:35 A.M., dangerous concentrations of 
methane gas accumulated in a poorly ventilated section of the Scotia 
Coal Mine and was ignited by an unknown source. The coal mine 
explosion that resulted killed 15 miners. Again, on March 11, 1976, 
at about 11 :20 P.M., the same conditions combined in the same section 
of the Scotia mine to cause a second explosion in which another 11 men 
died. Thus, within a 60-hour period, 26 men lost their lives in the 
bowels of the Scotia coal mine, located near Oven Fork, in Eastern 
Kentucky. As of this date, the bodies of the 11 men killed in the second 
explosion remain entombed in the mine. 

Why did Scotia happen? This same question was asked of the 
Farmington disaster in 1968 which claimed the lives of 78 coal miners; 
the Hyden disaster of 1970 which killed 38 miners; and the Itmann 
and Blackville disasters of 1972 in which 14 died. 

In 1969, the U.S. Congress responded to the Farmington disaster by 
enacting the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which is, 
perhaps, the strongest such law in the world. Since the passage of the 
Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, over 1,000 coal 
miners have died in mine explosions, roof falls, and other coal mine 
accidents. 

Why did Scotia happen? Since the disaster, the House Education 
and Labor Committee, under the direction of Chairman Carl Perkins 
and Labor Standards Subcommittee Chairman John H. Dent, has been 
searching for answers and insights into the Scotia tragedy. In con- 
junction with the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, 
the Committee held three days of public hearings in Washington, D.C. 
and Whitesburg, Kentucky. The Committee heard from Scotia widows, 
miners, company officials, outside professionals, and Federal Govern- 
ment officials. The Committee and its staff reviewed thousands of 
pages of testimony, conducted individual interviews, and analyzed 
mine inspection reports and other related documents. 

In order to inform the full Committee, and the public at-large, as 
to what has been learned thus far about the Scotia disaster, Mr. 
Perkins and Mr. Dent instructed the staff to prepare this report. The 
views contained herein are those of the majority staff, and do not 
necessarily represent those of the Committee. 

Why did Scotia happen? While all the causal factors related to the 
disaster have yet to be conclusively determined, the available evidence 
strongly supports the following conclusions : 

1. The Scotia Coal Company, in effect, ignored the require- 
ments of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, its 
standards and administrative regulations; 

2. The Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration 
(MESA) failed to effectively enforce the Federal Coal Mine 
Health and Safety Act at the mine; 

(l) 



Ultimate responsibility for the first explosion of March 9, 
1976, rests with the Scotia Coal Company, but responsibility for 
the second explosion of March 11, 1976, must, in the staff's 
opinion, rest with M ESA. 
The Scotia Coal Mine, near Oven Fork, Kentucky, was known as 
one of the most dangerous mines in the United States and the most 
gassy mine in Eastern Kentucky. In addition, the Scotia mine had a 
long and chronic history of Federal coal mine health and safety viola- 
tion-. From 1970 to 1976, the Scotia mine had been ordered closed 
] 10 separate times — 39 times for imminent danger conditions. During 
this same period, some S55 notices for Federal health and safety 
violations had been issued against the company. In the period January 
1974 to February 1976, the mine had been cited for 63 separate viola- 
tions of Federal ventilation and methane standards. 
In addition, the record contains evidence that: 

• The Scotia mine's ventilation plan was regularly violated 
and, at the time of the first explosion, Scotia was in violation of 
its ventilation plan; 

• At various times, methane readings taken by the company 
officials had registered as high as 9 percent; 

© The required 20 minute methane monitoring regulation was 
repeatedly violated and seldom adhered to at the Scotia mine; 

• Required preshift mine inspections for hazardous ventilation, 
methane and other conditions were not regularly conducted at 
the Scotia mine: preshift inspection reports were routinely falsi- 
fied; and the section of the mine which exploded had not been 
inspected prior to the shift in which the first explosion occurred; 

• A methane gas feeder which measured at least 5 percent had 
existed in that section of the mine which exploded ; 

• The company's safety education and training program was a 
sham, and no one, including the company's safety inspector, could 
remember the last time a fire or mine evacuation drill had been 
conducted at the Scotia mine. Six of the 15 miners killed in the 
first explosion suffocated to death. 

From the record, it is clear that the Scotia mine was a bad mine, a 
dangerous mine, a mine with a long and chronic history of health and 
safety violations. It was a mine which in our opinion placed production 
and profit before the safety and health of its miners. It was a mine 
which essentially ignored the law. 

In the staff's opinion, the Scotia mine was permitted to operate in 
disregard of the law primarily because MESA failed to adequately and 
effectively enforce the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in such a 
manner so as to effectuate lasting and permanent compliance. MESA 
failed to test its imminent danger authority to determine whether — 
based upon a mine's prior history of violations — the operation of a 
mine like Scotia, in-and-of-itself, could be considered as imminently 
dangerous and therefore ordered closed until such time that the 
chronic safety and health problems were permanently abated. Aside 
from failing to t"st its imminent danger authority, MESA also failed to 
effectively use its established mine closure authority to impress upon 
Scotia th' 4 severity of its mine safety and health problems. Although 
prior to the explosion MESA closed the mine 1 10 times, the record in- 
dicates that the overwhelming majority of these closure orders were 



lifted the same day they wore issued, thus having a minimal effect on 
production. While MESA had the authority to repeatedly close the 
Scotia mine for unwarrantable failure to comply with health and safety 
standards, the record shows that MESA used this authority sparingly. 
In the 15 month period prior to the explosions, Scotia violated the 
Federal ventilation standards 33 times, but MESA only issued 4 
unwarrantable failure to comply closure orders, all of which were 
lifted the same day they were issued. Even though Scotia's safety 
record indicated willful and knowing violations, MESA never once 
brought criminal charges against the Company. 

In terms of the assessment and collection of monetary fines, MESA's 
record at Scotia was abominable. The record indicates that monetary 
penalty assessments were low to begin with, and the amounts actually 
collected were even lower; as much as 50 percent lower. On only three 
occasions did MESA ever assess the maximum civil penalty of $10,000 
against Scotia; two of these cases involved deaths and the other 
involved serious physical injuries. Only one of the death cases has been 
resolved, and MESA settled out of court for $5,500; a reduction of 45 
percent. The highest penalty ever assessed against Scotia for a ventila- 
tion violation was $582 of which MESA only collected $291 ; a reduc- 
tion of 50 percent. MESA's monetary penalty record at the Scotia 
mine indicates that both assessments and collections were neither 
progressive nor cumulative. As a matter of fact the record shows that 
as Scotia continued to violate the law, both assessed and collected 
amounts either remained the same or were lower than previous amounts 
for similar violations. 

The history of MESA inspection efforts at the Scotia mine indicates 
serious shortcomings including an over-reliance on one-man spot 
inspections; poor procedures for reviewing and evaluating ventilation 
plans; and inadequate information systems. Since 1970, MESA has 
conducted some 225 one-man spot inspections of the Scotia mine com- 
pared to only 23 "regular" inspections of the entire mine. Spot 
inspections check only for limited conditions in a short period of time. 
The day before the first explosion, MESA conducted a limited inspec- 
tion of the Scotia mine which failed to include that section of the mine 
where both explosions occurred. At the time of the first explosion, 
Scotia was in violation of its ventilation plan for more than a month, 
yet MESA was unaware of the violation until a week before the first 
explosion and, even then, failed to take any action. MESA's informa- 
tion system was such that local MESA officials failed to adequately use 
the information they had on the history of violations at the Scotia 
mine, and the flow of this information never reached top MESA 
national officials. 

Thus, when viewed in its entirety, MESA's enforcement record at 
the Scotia mine was one of ineffectiveness. Nothing more clearly 
demonstrates this ineffectiveness than the fact that after some 1,000 
man days of inspection and enforcement activity, the Scotia mine 
continued to be operated as an unsafe and dangerous mine. 

In terms of the explosions themselves, all of the causal factors have 
yet to be fully determined. However, it is known that both explosions 
occurred in the same section of the jnine; the 2 Southeast main section. 
In addition, there is a general consensus that both explosions resulted 
from an explosive build-up of methane gas which accumulated in the 



poorly ventilated 2 Southeast main section and was ignited by an 
undetermined source. 

With respect to the first explosion of March 9th, the record supports 
the following findings: 

1. The nature of the MESA inspection on March 8th, less than 24 
hours before the first explosion, was limited in both purpose and scope 
and did not include that section of the mine where the explosion 
occurred 2 Southeast main. 

2. That section of the mine which exploded — 2 Southeast main — was 
not subjected to the required preshift mine examination prior to two 
locomotives (operated by two Scotia miners killed in the explosion) 
entering the section on the morning of March 9th. The explosion 
occurred minutes after the locomotives — one fitted with a questionable 
air compressor — entered 2 Southeast main. 

3. About a month before the explosion, Scotia temporarily dis- 
continued active mining in 2 Southeast main, and initiated production 
in the 2 Left panel, off 2 Southeast main. This new production violated 
Scotia's approved ventilation plan and may have interrupted the 
ventilation system. 

4. A methane gas feeder was known to exist near the face of 2 
Southeast main. 

5. Ventilation problems were experienced in the 2 Left panel, off 2 
Southeast main, both the day before and immediately prior to the 
explosion. 

6. Scotia officials engaged in questionable practices in an effort to 
"correct" the ventilation problems uncovered in the March 8th 
MESA inspection. 

7. While the exact source of ignition has yet to be determined, 
there is some evidence to support the conclusion that the ignition was 
somehow related to the activity of the two locomotives entering the 
2 Southeast main section: Most of the explosion-related mine damage 
was reported to be in the immediate area of the two locomotives, and 
the explosion occurred only minutes after the locomotives entered 
2 Southeast main. 

8. Six of the fifteen miners who were killed on March 9th survived 
the initial explosion but subsequently suffocated to death after their 
self-rescue equipment became inoperable. Professional testimony 
indicated that these six men probably could have saved themselves by 
simply walking out of the mine following the initial blast. 

Within a few hours of the first explosion, MESA officials assumed 
effective control of the Scotia mine and directed all the rescue, re- 
covery and investigation efforts. Throughout this period MESA was 
responsible for all decisions and actions related to the Scotia mine 
disaster. It was MESA officials who made the decision to send a 13- 
man work crew into the mine on March 11, to repair a damaged roof 
and to restore ventilation. At 11:20 P.M. on March 11, this 13-man 
crew v n> caught in the second Scotia explosion which, like the first 
explosion, originat ed in the 2 Southeast main section of the mine. 
Eleven men died in the blast and two survived. 

With respect to the environmental conditions in the mine between 
the two explosions, the following is known: 

• Nearly all the physical mine damage resulting from the first 
explosion was found in the area of the two locomotives located 
in the upper portions of 2 Southeast main; 



• Dangerous concentrations of methane gas and carbon monoxide 
were found in 2 Southeast main by the rescue teams on March 
9-10; 

• Work crews and rescue teams on March 9-10 were unable to 
restore ventilation to the 2 Southeast main section ; 

• A hazardous roof condition was found at the entrance to 2 
Southeast main; 

• Perhaps most importantly, the upper portions of 2 Southeast 
main were not inspected or firebossed for hazardous conditions. 
From the time the rescue teams recovered the bodies of the two 
locomotive men, killed in the first explosion, until now, no one 
has been in the 2 Southeast main section of the Scotia mine. Thus, 
at the time the 13-man work crew approached the entrance to 2 
Southeast main to repair the damaged roof on March 11, the 
hazardous environmental conditions in 2 Southeast main were 
unknown. 

As in the case of the first explosion, the ignition source of the second 
explosion has yet to be determined. However, unlike the first explo- 
sion, there is evidence indicating that the responsible MESA officials 
failed to seriously consider at least one possible ignition source that 
was known to exist prior to the second explosion — one of the loco- 
motives fitted with a questionable air compressor. 

This machine, a Goodman locomotive, was one of the locomotives 
sent into that section of the mine which exploded on March 9. The air 
compressor on the Goodman locomotive was an integral part of the 
machine's braking system and automatically "kicked on" when the 
air pressure dropped below a certain point. According to testimony, 
the compressor "kicked on" automatically about every 15 to 20 
minutes, and whenever engaged it caused a substantial spark which 
was more than sufficient to ignite an explosive concentration of 
methane gas. This locomotive-compressor, which could have caused 
the first explosion, remained in the mine following the initial explosion 
and remains there today. 

In terms of the decisions made by MESA in the period between 
explosions, the most critical decision was to send the 13-man work 
crew back into the mine on March 11, after previous attempts to 
restore ventilation in 2 Southeast main had failed. The hearing 
record strongly suggests that this decision was made simply as a 
matter of routine and without due regard for the possible hazards 
involved. Prior to the men entering the mine on March 11, MESA 
officials knew that something was wrong with the ventilation in 
2 Southeast main; they knew of dangerous concentrations of methane 
in that section; they knew of the Goodman locomotive; and they 
knew that 2 Southeast main had not been subject to a preshift ex- 
amination ; yet the fateful decision was made with little or no thought 
given to these factors, and the work crew was sent into the mine 
without any instructions as to the possible hazards involved. 

Why did Scotia happen? In the opinion of the committee staff the 
Scotia coal mine disasters of March 9 and March 11, 1976 had their 
roots in the past practices of the Scotia Coal Company. The disasters 
happened because MESA failed to effectively enforce" the law at the 
Scotia coal mine. The March 9th explosion happened because deadly 
concentrations of methane gas were permitted to accumulate in a 

77-245—76 2 



6 

poorly ventilated section of the mine where men were sent to work. 
The March l lth explosion occurred because MESA failed to adequate- 
ly consider the possible hazards involved in men working near the 
mine section where ventilation had not been restored and which 
evidenced explosive concentration- of met bane gas. 

Throughout the bearings conducted by the House Education and 
Labor Comn. .d the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Com- 

mittee. MESA officials repeatedly stated that as coal mines go, the 
Scotia min; 4 was not considered as particularly hazardous. If this i- 
true: if there are coal mines which are more dangerous than Scotia and 
with safety and health records as bad as Scotia'-, then how many more 
Scotia- are out there just waiting to explode? Must our coal miners 
simply rely on fate and good luck each time they go into a coal mine? 
The Congress, in 1969, enacted the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act 
in order to replace luck and fate with strong and vigorous preventive 
measures. The law was enacted to prevent coal mine explosions, roof 
falls and other accidents which since 1969 have claimed over 1,000 
lives and injured thousands more. 

The Coal Mine Health and Safety Act is a good law, it is a strong 
and progressive law. But the law is only as good, as strong and as 
progressive as its enforcement. As this report documents, enforcement 
of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act at the Scotia mine was neither 
vigorous nor effective. We sincerely hope that when all the factors 
related to the Scotia disaster are finally determined, that effective 
government action will be taken to prevent another Scotia. 

Background and Chronology of Events: Scotia Coal Mine 
Disasters, March 9 and March 11, 1976 

background 

Blue Diamond Coal Company Inc. is a Knoxville, Tennessee firm 
that produces about 2.3 million tons of coal a year in Kentucky. It 
is the parent company of the Scotia Coal Company whose No. 1 
mine under Black Mountain in Letcher County exploded on March 9 
and March 11, 1976, killing 26 men. 

The Blue Diamond Company is headquartered at 6205 Kingston 
Pike, Knoxville, Tennessee. The top corporate officers of the parent 
firm and the two wholly owned affiliates are Joseph W. Hoffman, 
president; Gordon Bonnyman, board chairman; and R. H. Watson, 
vice president for operations. Blue Diamond is the selling agent for 
the Company's six coal brands; Leatherwood, Blue Diamond, Royal 
Scott, Starfire, Mayflower, and Tennessee Group. 

Blue Diamond's oldest and largest Kentucky operation is at 
Leatherwood in Perry County, near the boundaries of Harlan and 
Leslie Counties. It acquired the Scotia property in 1962 and started 
operations in three seams in 1963. Two seams are above drainage 
and considered "non-gassy" by state standards. The No. 1 seam is 
below drainage and has long been classified as "gassy." 

The Company has recognized the Southern Labor Union (SLIT) as 
its bargaining agent at Leatherwood. However, miners at the Scotia 
Coal Company are represented by the Scotia Employees Association. 

Access at the Scotia Mine No. 1 into the Imboden coal seam is 
achieved through one 400-foot deep mine shaft. Air circulation is 



forced into the mine by a fan circulating approximately 200,000 
cubic feet of air per minute through the mine. Intake air comes into 
the mine at two locations. Coal is mined by continuous miners and is 
transported by shuttle cars onto conveyors. Permissible battery- 
powered equipment is used for transporting the men from the surface 
to the working places in the mine. The Scotia mine liberates in the 
range of 200,000 to 500,000 cubic feet of methane per 24 hours, with 
the most active production of methane being at the mining faces. 
The explosions which occurred on March 9 and March 11, 1976, oc- 
curred in the 2 Southeast main (2 SEM) section of the mine. 

CHRONOLOGY 

January-February 1976. — MESA conducted an 8-week inspection 
of entire Scotia No. 1 mine. 

February 1976. — Mining in 2 Southeast main (2 SEM) section was 
discontinued due to the height of the coal seam and lack of equipment. 
Mining machinery was moved back from the face of 2 SEM and mining 
was begun in the 2 Left panel, off 2 SEM. 

March 1976. — Scotia submitted to M.E.S.A. a proposed new ventila- 
tion plan for the mine. 

March 8, 1976, 2nd shift— M.E.S.A. Coal Mine Health Technical 
Specialist Cecil Davis, stationed at Whitesburg, Kentucky made an 
inspection of the 2 Left panel, off 2 SEM. Davis issued 4 notices of 
violations, 2 of which were for ventilation problems. Davis, did not 
inspect 2 SEM. 

March S-9, 1976, 3rd shift. — Scotia fire boss Charles Fields conducted 
a preshift examination of Scotia mine but failed to inspect 2 SEM. 

March 9, 1976 

During the morning, two miners were sent into 2 SEM to take 
steel rails into the section for storage. Two locomotives were used to 
push steel loaded cars into the area. 

11 a.m. — James Bentley, Assistant mine foreman in charge of 
ventilation, noticed a regulator governing air intake had been left 
open, thereby changing ventilation patterns in mine. Bentley closed 
the regulator. 

11:15 a.m. — Bentley called the mine foreman, and aked for a ventila- 
tion check. Bentley then called Virgil Coots, foreman on 2 Left panel 
off 2 SEM and asked for air reading. Coots said he "just lost" his 
ventilation. Bentley told him to check his curtains and call him back. 
Time about 11:30. 

11:35 a.m. — First Explosion occurred in 2 SEM. 

12:26 p.m.— Scotia reported accident to M.E.S.A.'s Whitesburg, 
Kentucky office as ignition. 

12:45 p.m. — Scotia informed M.E.S.A. of an explosion with 16 
men unaccounted for; M.E.S.A. Inspectors were dispatched. 

12:50 p.m.— M.E.S.A.'s Pikeville office notified M.E.S.A. national 
office in Arlington, Virginia of the accident. 

> 1:10 p.m.— M.E.S.A. inspectors at mine issued 103(f) order, effec- 
tively controlling entry into Scotia mine. 

3 p.m. — Scotia personnel attempted rescue efforts but failed to 
make any progress. 



s 

3 p.m. — First mine rescue teams arrived; Other teams continued to 
arrive until 11:00 p.m. that evening. 

3:15 p.m. — M.E.S.A. officials Monroe West, Subdistrkt Manager, 
Norton, Kentucky office and William Clemons, Assistant District 
Manager Pikeville, Kentucky office arrived at the mine. Charles 
Sample, M.E.S.A. Coal Mine Inspection Supervisor, Harlan, Kentucky 
arrived soon after. West and Sample went underground to direct 
rescue operations; Clemons took charge on the surface. 

4:30 p.m. — First mine rescue team went underground. 

4:35 p. 7n. — Second mine rescue team went underground. 

6:55 p.m. — First fresh air base established. 

S:30 p.m. — M.E.S.A. Administrator Robert Barrett, Assistant Ad- 
ministrator John Crawford, and R. Peluso, Assistant Administrator 
Technical Support, arrived at the mine, After briefing, all three went 
underground. 

10 p.m. — Barrett and company arrived at the fresh air base and 
began assisting in the operations. 

10:15 p.m. — First body was found in area of 2 SEM by the West- 
moreland Coal Company rescue team. 

March 10, 1076 

1:20 a.m. — All 15 bodies were located and removed. Five bodies were 
located in main shaft of 2 SEM at the intersection of 2 Left panel, and 
eight bodies were discovered behind a makeshift curtain barricade in 
the 2 Left panel. Two bodies were discovered by National Mine Rescue 
team farther up 2 SEM towards face near the two locomotives. Mine 
area in the vicinity of the locomotives which was described as show- 
ing the most damage. 

4:46 a.m. — The bodies arrived at the surface. All personnel were 
withdrawn from mine. 

Early morning hours. — A meeting of M.E.S.A., state, company 
officials and miners was held to decide future actions. It was decided 
that M.E.S.A. rescue teams and Scotia personnel would work during 
the 2nd shift to restore ventilation to mine. It was also agreed to 
reenter mine for an inspection tour beginning at 7:00 A.M. on 3—11— 
76. After this meeting, M.E.S.A. Washington personnel departed. 

7:30-8 a.m. — William Clemons went home; Russell Tackett of 
M.E.S.A. was left in charge. Clemons returned to mine later in the day, 
prior to 2nd shift, and resumed control. 

5 p.m. — At the suggestion of Ben Taylor, M.E.S.A. Coal Mine 
Inspection Supervisor, Whitesburg, Kentucky, Taylor and Richard 
Combs, Scotia General mine foreman, began to pre-shift inspect 
part of mine (not up 2 SEM). Taylor was told by Combs of a com- 
pressor on a locomotive near face of 2 SEM. Taylor asked Combs if 
locomotive-compressor could have been a possible ignition source. 
Taylor did not immediately report this conversation to other officials. 

6:55 p.m.. — Two M.E.S.A. teams entered the mine to reestablish 
ventilation and explore 2 SEM. They discovered a hazardous roof con- 
dition. They also determined that ventilation would be difficult to 
restore. 

March 11,1976 

12:48 a.m. — M.E.S.A. teams returned to the surface and reported 
the roof condition and ventilation problems. 

2:05 a.m. — Company, M.E.S.A. and State officials met to decide 
future course of action. At the meeting, it was decided to postpone 



9 

a proposed inspection tour until roof repairs were made and ventilation 
restored. It was decided to begin the repair work on 2nd shift, later 
in the day. 

4 a.m. — William Clemons left the mine; John South and John 
Banks, two M.E.S.A. inspectors, were put in charge. Clemons returned 
at 2:30-3:00 p.m. and resumed control. 

8:14- a.m. — M.E.S.A. and Scotia employees inspected the mine for 
hazardous conditions except for the 2 SEM section where ventilation 
had not been restored. 

6 p.m. — Thirteen men, including three M.E.S.A. inspectors, went 
underground to repair the roof and restore ventilation. Since the roof 
bolting machine needed to be repaired and moved to 2 SEM, the 
team did not arrive near the entrance to 2 SEM until much later. 

7-8 p.m. — Ben Taylor of M.E.S.A. returned to the mine after resting 
and told Clemons about the locomotive and compressor in 2 SEM. 
Clemons did not consider it important. 

9 p.m. — William Clemons went home, Ben Taylor was left in charge 

11:20 p.m. — Second Explosion occurred in 2 SEM. Rick Parker and 
Ernest Collins, the two survivors, worked their way to belt telephone 
and made the first call, reporting the explosion. 

11:40 p.m. — News of explosion reached surface by way of the survi- 
vors phone call. Taylor, fearing further danger, did not attempt a 
rescue effort. Taylor called Clemons and relayed the information. 

March 12, 1976 

12:12 a.m. — The two Survivors reached good air and made 2nd 
phone call. Survivors were told to wait for help, but they continued. 

12:20 a.m. — Rescue men were sent into mine for survivors who were 
found close to the mine entrance. Rescue teams were contacted. 

12:59 a.m. — William Clemons returned to the mine and resumed con- 
trol. Rescue attempts were made to reach the trapped miners but be- 
cause of an air reversal, the attempts were abandoned. 

6:55 a.m. — Two M.E.S.A. inspectors and miner representative were 
lowered down an air shaft where the air was adequate. 

9:45 a.m. — Three rescue teams were lowered down the shaft into 
mine. 

12 noon — Eleven bodies were found but not recovered. 

1:02 p.m. — All rescue teams brought to surface. 

March 19, 1976 

2:10 p.m. — Mine ordered sealed. 
March 24, 1976 

Public Hearings conducted in Washington, D.C. by the Senate 
Subcommittee on Labor of the Committee on Labor and Public Wel- 
fare. 

April 5-9, and April 27-80, 1976 

Public hearings conducted in Whitesburg, Kentucky by the Mining 
Enforcement and Safety Administration. 

May 7, 1976 

Joint Public Hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Labor 
and Public Welfare and House Committee on Education and Labor, 
at Whitesburg, Kentucky. 



10 

May /.;. 1976 

Joint Public Hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Labor 
and Public Welfare and Bouse Committee on Education and Labor 
in Washington, D.C. 

June Hk 1976 

Joint Public Hearings conducted by The Senate Committee on 
Labor and Public Welfare and House Committee on Education and 
Labor in Washington, D.C. 

June IS, 1976 

A press conference was conducted by M.E.S.A. in Whitesburg, 
Kentucky to announce tentative plans to reopen Scotia mine. 
July 16, 1076 

The reopening of the mine was begun. 

Safety History of the Scotia Mine 

The Scotia Coal Mine, near Oven Fork, Kentucky, whicb exploded 
on March 9 and March 11, 1976, had a long and chronic history of coal 
mine safety and health violations. 

Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration (MESA) officials 
have indicated that the Scotia mine was one of the most dangerous 
coal mines in the United States. In addition to being the most gassy 
mine in Eastern Kentucky, it had an abominable history of coal mine 
safety and health violations. According to MESA inspection records, 
since 1970, this mine was ordered closed 110 times — 39 times for immi- 
nent danger conditions. During this same period, MESA also issued 855 
notices of coal mine safety and health violations against the Scotia 
Company, (see chart A) 

According to a staff study prepared by the Senate Subcommittee on 
Labor, during the period January 1974 and February 1976, the Scotia 
mine was charged with 420 safety and health violations. The Senate 
study indicated that at least 63 of the 420 violations were directly re- 
lated to ventilation and methane conditions, (see chart B) 

In addition to its general history of safety and health violations, 
another critical aspect of Scotia's safety record was the complete lack 
of an adequate safety education and training program. Testimony 
presented by Scotia miners, Company officials and MESA profes- 
sionals clearly indicated that Scotia's training and education program 
was a "sham." According to the testimony, training in the use of self- 
rescuers was sporadic, and fire and mine evacuation drills were nearly 
non-existent. 

In terms of the March 9 and March 11 explosions, the issues most 
directly related to Scotia's safety record include (1) the history of 
ventilation and methane problems, and (2) the lack of adequate 
safety education and training programs. 

I. ventilation and methane gas AT THE SCOTIA MINE 

When high enough concentrations of methane gas (5 to 15 percent) 
in an underground coal mine are associated with inadequate ventila- 
tion and an ignition source, a violent coal mine explosion is very likely 
to occur. In the opinion of all those associated with the Scotia mine 



11 

disaster, these three conditions apparently led to the explosions on 
March 9 and March 1 1 . 

In terms of methane gas, it is an accepted fact that the Scotia mine 
was the most gassy mine in Eastern Kentucky. However, as compared 
to other mines in other states, most notably in Virginia, the Scotia 
mine was not considered as heavily gassy. The Scotia mine, according 
to MESA, liberated an average of c 250,000 to 500,000 cubic feet of 
methane gas in a 24-hour period. The aggregate amount of methane 
liberated, however, is relatively unimportant if proper and adequate 
ventilation exists to keep the methane concentrations below the ig- 
nition level. 

Among the many legal provisions designed to guard against methane 
explosions, MESA regulations require tests for methane at the start 
of each shift and at each working place by qualified individuals. If 
1.0 percent or more of methane is detected, electrical equipment must 
not be taken into, started or operated at the working place. Exami- 
nations and monitoring for methane are also required at 20 minute 
intervals during the operation of electrical equipment. In addition, 
the regulations require a pre-shift examination for accumulations of 
methane within three hours preceding the beginning of any shift, and 
before any miner in such a shift enters the active workings of a coal 
mine. If 1.5 percent methane is detected at any time, all miners must 
be withdrawn from the endangered area. 

With respect to the Scotia mine the following facts are known: 

• High concentrations of methane gas had previously been de- 
tected by the MESA inspectors and Scotia company officials; 

• Pre-shift examinations were not always conducted in accordance 
with the law; 

• Methane monitoring at the required 20 minute intervals was 
not always complied with; and 

• Federal ventilation requirements were frequently violated. 
Methane concentrations. — In terms of high concentrations of methane 

detected at the Scotia Mine, MESA inspection records indicate that 
on at least seven separate occasions between January 1974 and Feb- 
ruary 1976, MESA issued violation notices of high methane concen- 
trations. On at least two separate occasions — November 18, 1974 and 
January 7, 1975 — the Scotia mine was ordered closed because high 
concentrations of methane were found by the MESA inspector. The 
January 7, 1975 closure order indicated that an iminent danger con- 
dition existed due to a combination of 1.2 percent methane and 
inadequate ventilation, (see chart C) 

In addition to the methane violations found by MESA, Charles 
Fields — third-shift fire boss at the Scotia mine — testified before a 
MESA investigation panel that on a number of occasions he detected 
excessive concentrations of methane gas throughout the mine. During 
the MESA hearings Fields was asked: 

How often did you find more than say two percent of methane in work areas 
or idle areas? 

Fields. Well sometimes it will be a long time. And maybe you will find not 
over two-tenths. And then sometimes you will get it where it will be nine percent 
or three percent. (Emphasis added.) 

At the same hearing, Fields also testified that he had been aware 
of a methane gas feeder located hi the same section of the mine where 



12 

the two explosions occurred (2 Southca-t main). Fields said he n 
ured at least a five percent methane concentration at the floor of the 
mine where the feeder was located. According to Field-, the concentra- 
tion could have been higher but his methane monitor measured only 
up to a live percent level. Fields further testified that when he took 
the same reading at a level somewhat above the mine iloor, "it showed 
nothing''. 

Besides Fields, other miners also testified to the existence of a 
methane gas feeder in the 2 Southeast main section of the mine. 
Pat Fate, a. shuttlecar operator, told the MESA panel that whenever 
the mine iloor was wet in the 2 Southeast main section, methane gas 
could be seen bubbling up through the water. According to Pate, 
"it boiled just like boiling water on a hot plate." Others who testified 
that they knew about the gas feeder included Arvil Cornett — Scotia 
mine foreman, James Maggard — second shift maintenance foreman, 
Fred Maggard — general superintendent of the Scotia mine, Harvey 
Creech — Scotia stall foreman, and Ernest Collins — a Scotia miner. 

Pre-shi/t mine exam l nations. — With respect to the pre-shift mine 
examinations (fire bossing) required by the law, the MESA hearings 
clearly established that the examinations w T ere not regularly made in 
all working sections of the Scotia mine. 

The MESA panel established that Scotia's only third-shift fire boss, 
('In rles Fields, signed the fire boss book indicating that such examina- 
tions had been conducted, even though many times he actually did 
not make the inspections. According to the transcript of the MESA 
hearings: 

Question. This (the fire boss book) begins on March 5, and those are the 
records of the pre-shift examinations that were signed for by Mr. Fields prior 
to the explosion. Those are your signatures at the bottom of this particular page? 
You agree they are copies of the fire boss book? 

Fields. Yes, sir. 

Question. And you signed for the exams? 

Fields. Yes. 

Question. But you did not make them (the examinations)? 

Fields. No. 

During this exchange, .Robert Barrett, MESA administrator, also 
established the fact that Fields very infrequently fire bossed the 2 
Southeast main section of the mine where the explosions occurred. 
According to the transcript: 

Barrett. Were you in 2 Southeast Mains after the (continuous) miner pulled 
out of that section of the mine where the explosions occurred? 

Fields. Yes. 

Barrltt. How often did you get up there? 

Fields. Well, not very often. 

Barrett. There were approximately six weeks between . . . the time the 
equipment was pulled out of the Mains and moved into 2 left . . . How many 
times would you say during that five or six week period were you up the mains? 

Fields. Really I was up in there I would say twice. 

Fields al-o testified that he had not fire bossed the 2 Southeast main 
section of the mine immediately prior to the shift in which the March 
9th explosion occurred. 

The Fields testimony indicated that he and Arvil Cornett, Scotia 
mine foreman, had an arrangement whereby they shared the fire 
bossing duties. Cornett's testimony confirmed this arrangement but 
it also confirmed that no one fire bossed the 2 Southeast main section 



13 

of the mine immediately prior to the shift in which the first explosion 
occurred. 

The Fields-Cornett testimony demonstrated that there was no set 
pattern for dividing up the fire bossing responsibilities between them. 
This led to apparent confusion and a failure on occasion to cover the 
whole mine. 

The 20-minute methane monitoring rule. — There is evidence in the 
record to suggest that the 20-minute methane monitoring rule was 
repeatedly violated at the Scotia mine. On at least one occasion 
(July 8, 1975) Scotia was cited by a MESA inspector for failure to test 
for methane at the required 20-minute intervals. Furthermore, 
testimony taken from Scotia miners indicated that the 20-minute rule 
was seldom followed. According to Carlos Smith, a Scotia continuous 
miner operator, this requirement was repeatedly violated. According 
to the MESA hearing transcript: 

Question. Are you aware of a requirement that gas has to be checked periodic- 
ally? 

Smith. Yes, sir. 

Question. Do you know how often that is? 

Smith. Every twenty minutes, I believe. 

Question. Would you say that gas was being tested for every twenty minutes? 

Smith. No, sir. 

Smith also testified that while he was not qualified to test for 
methane gas, he nonetheless regularly made such tests at the miner 
which he operated. Additionally he stated that while the section fore- 
man was supposed to test for methane at the miner, he, Smith, was 
"not sure , ' how often the tests were made. Smith did state that the 
tests were very seldom taken while he was operating his equipment. 

Ventilation history 

The safety history of the Scotia mine demonstrates serious and 
repeated ventilation violations, problems and illegal practices. In the 
two year period preceding the disaster, the Scotia mine had been cited 
63 separate times by MESA for ventilation violations. Of this total, 
26 violations were attributed to not enough air reaching the working 
face of the mine, and 18 violations were for failure to follow the MESA 
approved ventilation plan. Other ventilation violations included line 
brattices being out of position, inoperative methane monitors, high 
methane concentrations, permanent brattices unconstructed, lost coal 
and coal dust, and fans and other equipment not properly equipped 
or operating. 

In addition to the history of MESA-cited ventilation violations, 
there is evidence indicating that MESA inspectors were intentionally 
misled as to the ventilation in the mine, and that air was regularly 
diverted from one section of the mine to another during MESA 
inspections. 

At the Joint House and Senate committee hearings, Ronald Ledford, 
a former Scotia miner, testified that he personally witnessed air being 
diverted from one section of the mine to another in anticipation of a 
MESA inspection. Under questioning by Chairman Carl Perkins, 
Ledford said that he had accompanied James Bentley, assistant mine 
foreman for ventilation at Scotia, on three occasions when air was 
diverted. According to Ledford, - 

77-245—76 3 



14 

We would go to the (air) regulators, and whatever section he (the MESA 
inspector) was coming on, he (Bentley) would kind of slide the doers closed o\<r 

another section, and they would put more air into another section — the Bection 
that the inspector would conn- in— for more air, and (then) they would shut it 
down. 

According to the hearing transcript: 

i\s. Ybu mean they would switch the air around? 
Li.di ORD. Ui^ht. 

Perkins. How often did they do this? 

LedFORD. I went with him (Bentley) three times when he done it. 
Perkins. Over what period of time did this take place? 
Ledpord. Back in about seven or eight months. 

A number of other Scotia miners gave testimony which essentially 
substantiated Ledford's assertions. Furthermore, they also testified 
that they personally were involved in instances where MESA in- 
spectors were intentionally misled as to ventilation and other safety 
conditions in the mine. Taken as a whole, the testimony of Gary 
Smith — a utility man, Carlos Smith — a continuous miner operator, 
Merle Rhodes — assistant second-shift foreman, Glen Sturgill — former 
Scotia miner, Everett Boggs — former Scotia miner, and Pat Pate — 
shuttle car operator, presented a ringing indictment of the manner in 
which the air in the mine was diverted, and inspectors misled. 

ii. scotia's safety education and training record 

Robert Barrett, MESA Administrator, testified before the joint 
House and Senate Committee that MESA's investigation "clearly 
revealed that the Company's training program at Scotia was a sham." 
Nothing more tragically demonstrates Scotia's sham program than the 
fact that six of the miners who died on March 9th probably could 
have saved themselves had they received proper training in fire drill 
techniques and evacuation procedures. These six men did not die as a 
result of the initial explosion, but suffocated to death when their 
self-rescuers became inoperative. Following the initial explosion, the 
six apparently barricaded themselves in the 2 Left panel, off 2 South- 
east main and sat there until they died 

MESA and state officials reportedly said that the six miners who 
suffocated might have survived had they simply tried to walk out of the 
mine following the explosion. According to Harreld Kirkpatrick, 
Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, 
"We feel that the self-rescuers, with what we know now, they (the 
six miners) could have walked out 3% miles in an hour" (the self- 
resouers were good for about an hour). In testimony before the Joint 
House-Senate Committee, Monroe West, Subdistnct manager of 
MESA's Norton, Ky. office, said, "Sir, if they (the six miners) at- 
tempted to come out of there (the mine) there is a good possibility 
that they could have made it." MESA Administrator Robert Barrett, 
at a congressional briefing on March 15, 1976, also expressed the 
opinion that the six men probably could have saved themselves by 
\\ alking out of the mine. 

However tragic this example of six dead men might appear, their 
failure to act should not be surprising in light of Scotia's record on 
safety education, particularly with respect to lire and evacuation 
drills. Testimony taken from Scotia miners and officials clearly 



15 

established the lack of an overall, adequate safety education program 
at the mine. 

With respect to fire drills, escapeway procedures, and disaster-type 
situations, the hearing record is replete with evidence that most of the 
miners had never received proper training and instruction. Fred 
Maggard, the General Manager of the Scotia mine, told the MESA 
investigation panel that he did not know when the last fire drill had 
been conducted. Kis testimony indicated that he knew very little 
with respect to anything related to training and education. Maggard 
said that all safety training and education activities were the re- 
sponsibility of the Company's safety personnel. 

Charles Kirk — the only safety man employed by the Scotia coal 
company — testified that to the best of his knowledge not one lire or 
evacuation drill had been conducted at the mine during his tenure as 
the Company's safety inspector, approximately 3% year-, lie further 
testified that he was the only Company safety inspector and was 
responsible for all three of Scotia's mines including Scotia No. 1 
where the disaster occurred. Kirk stated that he had not been in the 
Scotia Xo. 1 mine during the 3-month period prior to the disaster. 

Richard Combs, general Scotia mine foreman, told the MESA panel 
that while he was aware that evacuation drills were required, lie was 
not familiar with the federal regulations as such. 

David McKnight, President of the Scotia Employee- Association, 
in re.-ponse to questioning from Chairman Car; Perkins told the Joint 
House-Senate investigation committee that "I have never known of a 
tire drill" and "as far as escapeways, sir, nothing about escapeways. I 
could go into those mines and never get out myself." Others who 
testified concerning the lack of safety training and fire and evacuation 
drills included Roger McKnight. Jasper Cornett, Carlos Smith, Glen 
Sturgill, and Everett Boggs. 

MESA's Enforcement Efforts at the Scotia Mixe 

In terms of effectiveness MESA's enforcement efforts relative to the 
Scotia coal mine leave- much to be desired. Nothing more clearly 
demonstrates this ineffectiveness than the tragic fact that on March 9 
and March 11, 1976, the Scotia mine exploded killing 26 men. MESA's 
enforcement shortcomings with respect to this mine have been inad- 
vertently admitted in the Agency. According to MESA Administrator, 
Robert Barrett, "prior to the explosions, federal inspectors had spent 
more than 1,000 man-days inspecting the Scotia mine, issuing 855 
notices of violations and 110 closure orders." Other MESA officials 
have testified that the Scotia nunc was the most inspected mine in 
Eastern Kentucky. The question thus arises why, after all the MESA 
inspection activity, notices and closure orders, did the Scotia mine 
continue to operate a- an unsafe and dangerous mine? 

The answer, is that the Scotia Coal Company was essentially per- 
mitted to ignore the law. We are convinced that MESA failed to 
adequately u>e it< authority to properly enforce the Coal Mine Health 
and Safety Act at the Scotia mine. 

Our investigation of MESA's enforcement efforts at the Scotia mine 
has raised a number of serious policy questions including: 

1. MESA's policy governing the concept of imminent danger 
under Section 104(a) of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act; 



16 

2. MESA's policy governing mine closure orders particularly 
with respect to Section 104(c) of the Coal Mine Health and Safety- 
Act (unwarrantable failure to comply); 

^ 3. MESA's policy governing its Section 109(b) authority under 
the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (criminal penaltie 

4. MESA's policy governing the assessment and collection of 
monetary penalties for coal mine health and safety violations; 

5. MESA's policy governing coal mine safety and health inspec- 
tions and procedures. 

i. mesa's policy governing the concept of imminent danger : 

- tion 104(a) of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act tates: 

Jf. upon any inspection of a coal mine, an authorized representative of the 
Secretary i\nd< that an imminent danger exists, such representative shall determine 
the area throughout which such danger exists, and thereupon shall issue forthwith 
an order requiring the operator of the mine or his agent to cause immediate 
persons (except certain selected individuals) to be withdrawn from, and to be 
prohibited from entering, such area until an authorized representative of the 
Secretary determines that such imminent danger no longer exists. 

The Act defines imminent danger as "the existence of any condition 
or practice in a coal mine which could reasonably be expected to cause 
death or serious physical harm before such condition or practice can 
be abated." 

Throughout this investigation, MESA officials have been repeatedly 
asked the question, "Why — given the mine's history of ventilation 
violations and methane concentrations — was the Scotia mine permitted 
to operate?" The specific policy question which lias arisen is whether — 
based upon a mine's prior history of coal mine health and safety 
violations — the operation of a mine, could of itself be considered as 
imminently dangerous and therefore ordered closed until chronic 
safety and health problems are permanently abated? 

MESA officials have testified that in their view the Agency does 
not have the authority, under the Act, to use Section 104(a) in the 
above manner. However, they have also testified that MESA has not 
sought to test the concept hi the federal cowls. According to MESA Ad- 
ministrator Robert Barrett, "A question has been asked as to why 
MESA failed to close the Scotia mine permanently on the theory 
that its rate of methane liberation constitutes all by itself an im- 
minent danger . . . The answer to that question is that, in our 
view, there is no authority under the Federal Coal Mine Health and 
Safety Act of 1969 to take that kind of action as long as the mine is 
properly ventilated." (emphasis added) Robert Long, MESA's 
Associate Solicitor, summcrized MESA's policy in this respect when 
he stated to Mr. Perkins, "Each violation gets assessed separately 
. . . That's the way this law is written . . . Once that violation is 
abated, that notice or order, as the case may be, has to be lifted . . . 
If you want to look at the record and say there are sixteen notices of 
violation or sixteen orders and those sixteen comprise in themselves 
imminent danger, I don't think that's what this law provides as it is 
written today." According to the hearing (June 16, 1976) transcript: 

Perkins. A situation like that exists and you come here complaining that no 
imminent danger exists, it i- beyond my comprehension. 

Loxg. I did not claim no imminent danger existed. There were quite a few 
imminent danger orders on this mine. What I ■■■aid was that a sum total of those 
orders docs not, in and of itself, compromise imminent danger. (Empha>is added.) 



17 

Perkins. Have you ever tested in the courts whether a string of violations 
that you talk about constituted the danger? 

Long. No, sir. 

Perkins. Why haven't you? 

Long. Because / don't believe that that is what this law provides and / don't 
think the Justice Department agrees either. (Emphasis added.) 

MESA officials have further testified that they need additional mine 
closure authority to deal with mines like Scotia. While this may be r 
it is our position that MESA has not fully tested the authority that 
it already has under Section 104(a) of the Act. It is not enough to 
simply state that "in our view" or "I don't believe" that the Act 
contains the necessary authority to apply the imminent danger 
closure provision to a mine with chronic safety and health violations. 
The Scotia mine is a primary example of where MESA should have 
tested, in the courts, its 104(a) authority. Only after testing such 
authority, and receiving an adverse definitive ruling, do we believe 
that MESA should come to the Congress and ask for additional 
authority. The Interior Department has had six years to address this 
question in the courts and it has thus far failed to do so. We believe 
that this is a serious policy shortcoming on the part of the 
Administration. 

ii. 

Of all the enforcement tools contained in the Coal Mine Health and 
Safety Act of 1969, perhaps the most potent are those relating to the 
Federal Government's authority to effectively close a mine by issuing 
orders for the withdrawal of the miners. The issuance of such orders can 
severely interrupt coal production and thereby impact directly on the 
business of a coal company. This is compared to federal fines for health 
and safety violations which, for the most part, are considered by the 
companies as an integral part of doing business. As will be discussed 
later in this report, the fines levied by MESA against Scotia were at 
best a nuisance and had no lasting impact on the Company's safety 
and health policies. If properly used, however, closure orders can have 
a substantial effect on the ability of a company to conduct its business 
and therefore constitutes an impressive tool to effectively enforce mine 
health and safety. 

Unfortunately for the 26 Scotia miners who died in the March 9 and 
March 11 explosions, MESA failed to adequately use its mine closure 
authority to effectively impress upon Scotia's management the sevcrity 
of the mine's safety and health problems. MESA's record in this 
respect leaves much to be desireti, particularly in terms of the inade- 
quate use of its Section 104(c) authority, which is perhaps the most 
effective mine closure tool for controlling the day to day operations of a 
mine like Scotia. As will be discussed more full}" below, Section 104(c) 
essentially provides for the closure of a mine where there are unwar- 
rantable failures on the part of an operator to comply with the federal 
health and safety standards. 

MESA's Mine Closure Authority .—The Coal Mine Health and 
Safety Act of 1969, provides MESA with the authority, under certain 
circumstances, to effectively close coal mines by issuing orders for the 



18 

withdrawal of miners. The act provides for the following types of mine 
closure orders: 

Imminent Banger. — Section 104(a) provides thai if an author- 
ized representative of the Secretary of the Interior (MESA) finds 
that an imminent danger exists in a coal mine he shall forthwith 
issue an order requiring all persons to be withdrawn immediately 
from the mine, or affected mine area, until such time that the 
representative determines that the imminent danger no longer 
exists. 

Failure to Abate. — Section 104(b) provides that whereupon any 
inspection of a coal mine by an authorized representative of the 
Secretary finds that there has been a violation of a federal health 
or safety standard which has not created an imminent danger, the 
representative shall issue a notice of violation fixing a reasonable 
time period for its abatement. If the violation has not been abated 
in the specified time period or possible extension thereof, then the 
representative shall issue a withdrawal order with respect to those 
miners affected by the violation. The withdrawal order shall 
remain effective until such time that it is determined that the 
violation has been abated. 

Unwarrantable Failure to Comply. — Section 104(c) provides for 
two types of withdrawal orders. Under Section 104(c)(1) if an 
authorized representative of the Secretar}- finds a violation of a 
health or safety standard which does not pose an imminent danger, 
but which could cause a mine safety or health hazard, and if he 
finds that the violation resulted from the unwarrantable failure of 
the mine operator to comply with the standards, then the inspec- 
tor shall issue a notice to this effect. If during the same inspection, 
or any subsequent inspection within 90 days, the inspector finds 
another violation which resulted from the unwarrantable failure 
to comply, he is required to issue a withdrawal order. The order 
remains in effect until such time as the violation is abated. 

Section 104(c)(2) provides that once a withdrawal order under 
104(c)(1) has been issued, additional such orders shall be issued 
if, upon any subsequent inspection, violations are found similar 
to those for which the initial 104(c)(1) order was issued. This 
order shall remain in effect until such time as an inspection 
determines the absence of any such similar violations. Following 
an inspection which determines that no similar violations exist, 
the provisions of 104(c)(1) are again applicable. According to the 
legislative history of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, Con- 
5S defined "unwarrantable failure of the operator to comply'' 
to mean "the failure of an operator to abate a violation because 
of a lack of due diligence, or because of indifference or lack of 
reasonable care, on the operator's part." 

Mine Control Following an Accident. — Section 103(f) provides 

that a federal inspector ma}' i- I orders following a 

mine accident to insure tie of any person in the mine. 

Except for the imminent danger closure authority, which, under 

curri A policy, is applicable only in limited circumstances — the 

unwarrantable failure pro vision is the most effective closure tool in 

controlling the day to day operations of a mine like Scotia, with a 






19 

demonstrated history of chronic mine safety and health violations. A 
close reading of the legislative history of the Coal Mine Health and 
Safety Act indicates that Congress designed Section 104(c) precisely 
for mines like Scotia whose operators repeatedly demonstrated a lack 
of "due diligence," "indifference" and "lack of reasonable care." Having 
once determined the existence of such an attitude — which the record 
indicates was rampant at Scotia — MESA could and should have used 
its Section 104(c) closure authority to the utmost. The fact that the 
Scotia mine was essentially permitted to continue to operate in an 
unsafe and dangerous manner is an indictment of MESA's effectiveness 
with respect to the use of its mine closure authority. 

MESA's Mine Closure Record at the Scotia Mine. — According to 
MESA records, during the period May 13, 1970 to March 9, 1976, 
855 notices of safety and health violations were issued to Scotia. In 
addition, the Scotia mine was ordered closed 110 times during this 
period. At the very least, therefore, Scotia was found to have violated 
the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act some 965 times prior to the 
March 1976 disaster. As already determined elsewhere in this report, 
Scotia repeatedly deceived MESA inspectors with respect to safety 
and health problems in the mine. Thus, it can be assumed that there 
were many more instances of violations that were never uncovered 
by MESA. 

The number of closure orders issued by MESA against Scotia are 
somewhat deceiving since in almost every case the closure order was 
lifted the same day it was issued. Given Scotia's continued "MESA 
be damned" attitude, it must be assumed that MESA's closure orders 
had a minimal effect on proper mine safety and health at the Scotia 
mine. 

Even when dealing with the Scotia numbers, MESA's mine closure 
record is inadequate. Of the 110 closure orders issued, 39 were for 
imminent danger, 23 were for failure to abate in time, 46 were for 
unwarrantable failure to comply, and 2 were for accidents. In terms 
of ventilation and methane conditions at the Scotia mine, MESA 
issued a total of 149 notices of violations but only 23 closure orders; 
3 for imminent danger, 2 for failure to abate, and 18 for unwarrantable 
failure to comply. In almost every case the ventilation closure order 
was terminated by MESA the same day it was issued. 

Given Scotia's history, it is inconceivable that the mine was only 
ordered closed 23 times for repeated ventilation violations, particularly 
in view of MESA's authority to close the mine for unwarrantable 
failure to comply with the federal ventilation standards. During the 
15-month period immediately prior to the March 9 disaster, Scotia was 
found to have violated the ventilation standards some 33 separate 
times, but only 4 Section 104(c) closure orders were issued, all of which 
were terminated by MESA the same day they were issued. As far as 
we are concerned this demonstrates an unwarrantable failure on the 
part of MESA to use its authorit} r to adequately enforce the law. 

To illustrate MESA's casual policy governing closure orders at the 
Scotia mine, the following case history is instructive. We have selected 
the 15- month period prior to the disaster to demonstrate MESA's 
enforcement activities with respect to Part 75.301 of MESA's Ventila- 
tion Standards: "Not enough airjre aching the face of the mine". 



20 

On January 27, 1975 MESA issued a 104(c)(2) closure order for 
a 75.. SOI violation; the order was lifted that same day; 

On January 30, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 vio- 
lation which was terminated the same day; 

On February 25, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 
violation which was terminated the same day; 

On March 13, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 violation 
which was terminated the same day; 

On March 19, 1975 MESA issued a 104(c)(2) closure order for a 
75.301 violation; the order was terminated the same day; 

On April 24, 1975 MESA issued a 104(c)(2) closure order 
for a 75.301 violation; the order was terminated the same day; 

On May 27, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 violation 
which was terminated the same day; 

On July 10, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 violation 
which was terminated the same day; 

On July 28, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 violation 
which was terminated the same day; 

On August 25, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 violation 
which was terminated on August 27, 1975; 

On September 17, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 vio- 
lation which was terminated the same day; 

On September 29, 1975 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 
violation which was terminated on the same day; 

On January 13, 1976 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 viola- 
tion which was terminated the same day; 

On January 20, 1976 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 viola- 
tion which was terminated the same day; 

On January 29, 1976 MESA issued a notice for a 75.301 viola- 
tion which was terminated the same day; 

On March 8, 1976, the day before the mine exploded, MESA 
issued two notices for two 75.301 violations, w r hich were terminated 
that same day. 
This 15-month record of MESA enforcement efforts with respect 
to Part 75.301 clearly indicated that there was something chronically 
wrong with Scotia's ventilation system. On sixteen different occasions 
MESA found that there .was insufficient air reaching the working 
faces of the mine, yet only three 104(c) closure orders were issued for 
unwarrantable failure to comply with Part 75.301. In all three cases 
the closure order was terminated by MESA the same day it was issued. 
The question confronting MESA is why did the agency not use its 
closure authority, particularly its Section 104(c) powers, to effectively 
interrupt the production of coal at the Scotia mine until such time 
that the Company made fundamental changes in its safety and health 
attitudes and policies Thus far, MESA has not produced an adequate 
and acceptable answer to this question. What is known, however, is 
that MESA's mine closure policy at the Scotia mine was not sufficient 
enough to impress upon the Company the full measure and force of 
the law. The Scotia management apparently found that it was more 
profitable to operate the mine in violation of the law than to make 
the changes necessary for compliance. 



21 

in. mesa's policy governing criminal sanctions 

In addition to its mine closure authority, MESA has the power to 
seek criminal sanctions against operators who knowingly and willfully 
violate the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. According to Section 
109(b) criminal charges can be brought against "any operator who 
willfully violates a mandatory health or safety standard, or knowingly 
violates or fails to comply with any order issued under Section 104 . . ." 

Throughout its entire history of enforcement at the Scotia mine, 
MESA never once sought to bring criminal actions against the Com- 
pany. We believe that Scotia's record of violations, spanning a six year 
period, constitutes, at the very least, knowing and willful violations 
of mandatory health and safety standards. Whether a court would 
agree is not now in issue. The simple fact is that MESA never sought 
to bring criminal charges against the Scotia company whose record, 
on its face, should have been enough to spur MESA to file such 
charges. 

Why did MESA fail to use its criminal sanction authority with 
respect to the Scotia mine? Part of the answer has to do with MESA's 
overall policy governing Section 109 (b) and (c). According to Senator 
Harrison Williams, the following constitutes MESA's overall criminal 
sanctions record from mid-1974 to date: 

• 342 requests from the field to investigate possible criminal 
violations; 

• 288 cases have been assigned for criminal investigation; 

• 117 criminal investigations have been completed; 

• 38 cases were recommended from the field for criminal or civil 
action; 

• 17 cases have been forwarded to the Interior Department 
Solicitor's office for action. Of the 17 cases forwarded to Interior's 
Solicitor, 5 recommended criminal action. 

This rather dull record was further substantiated when assistant 
MESA administrator John Crawford told Senator Williams "To 
answer your question, we have looked at three hundred some cases . . . 
Again, I am not a lawyer, but somewhere in there we have only 
arrived at a very few out of those that apparently are strong enough 
to cany through for prosecution." 

Thus far, MESA has not adequately defined the criteria used for 
deciding when to pursue Section 109(b) or (c) actions, but the law 
appears to be clear. The tests, according to the law, are willfully 
violating a mandatory standard or knowingly violating or failing to 
comply with an order, particularly a Section 104 order. 

In terms of the Scotia mine, there is strong evidence to suggest that 
local MESA officials were aware of willful violations and knowing 
failures to comply with orders. This evidence also suggests that 
because of MESA's cumbersome investigative procedures, very little 
was done to pursue criminal sanctions against Scotia. In an exchange 
between Senator Williams, Chairman Perkins, and Lawrence Phillips, 
MESA's District Manager of the Pikeville Kentucky Office — with 
jurisdiction over the Scotia mine — it was brought out that criminal 
sanctions against the Scotia mine had been recommended. According 
to the hearing transcript. 

Williams. Have you ever considered recommending these severe (criminal) 
penalties if you couldn't get to the boitom of unsafe conditions in that (Scotia.' 
mine? 

77-243— 7G 4 



22 

PHILLIPS. Yes, on specific instances I have. We review every "C" (Section 104 
(c)) type action in the district and every order. The inspector who wrote the action 
along with his supervisor, first make the determination whether or not they think 
it is willful. It passefl on to a man in the district who we call a special investigator 
who baa BOme training along those lines. If he considers it willful, it comes to me 
. 1 read it. If I also agree with him, I forward it to Mr. Crawford's office. 

Perkins (later in the dialogue). The willful penalty statute that Senator 
Williams was referring to is in there, and it was not applied? 

PHILLIPS. I can't say it wasn't applied. We had recommended in certain in- 
stances for willful provisions to apply. 

Pbbkins. To this particular mine? 

Phillips. Yes Sir. 

Pi kkins. What happened? Why didn't it stop? 

Phillips. These are presently being investigated. 

Pbbkins (later in the dialogue). Getting back to the willful penalty section, 
Mr. Phillips, you stated that some recommendations were made. Who made the 
recommendations, and when were they made? Before or after the disaster? 

Phillips. I made the recommendations and I made them before (the disaster). 

Perkins. How long before? 

Phillips. I made one two weeks after I got there. September 17, 1975. 

Pi. kkins. You never heard any outcome from that recommendation? Never got 
any reply back? 

Phillips. It is being investigated. None other than that. 

Perkins. None other than it was being investigated? Who was supposed to 
make that investigation after you made your recommendation? 

Phillips. Mr. Crawford has on his staff the people who evaluate this, and I 
really don't know what all is involved, but then it comes back to the special 
investigator who is in my district, to run all the facts in the case. 

Perkins. Did it ever come back to the special investigator in your district to 
run up the recommendations you had made in September of last year? 

Phillips. Yes sir. 

Plrkins. What was his decision? 

Phillips. He has not completed the investigation at this time. 

Perkins. He has not completed the investigation at this time? 

Phillips. Yes. 

Perkins. And you made the recommendation last September, is that right? 

Phillips. Yes. 

Perkins. Of willful violations? 

Phillips. Yes sir. 

Perkins, (later in dialogue). I want to know what in your opinion constitutes 
willful violations? 

Phillips. That is a pretty tough question. To me it would almost be akin to 
wanton neglect. 

Perkins. Do you feel that there was wanton neglect there at that (Scotia) mine 
and was that the reason that you made those recommendations? 

Phillips. In certain instances I do, yes. 

From this: record, it is rather obvious that the MESA officials 
directly responsible for the Scotia mine believed that the mine was 
being operated in a manner which willfully violated MESA's stand- 
ards, yet no criminal action was taken against the Company. From 
September 1975 until now all that has been done was to investigate. 
The recommendation for willful violation sanctions was made five 
months prior to the disaster but, as far as Scotia was concerned, no 
action was taken. At the very least MESA should be called to task for 
a bureaucratic procedure which slows the criminal sanction process to 
something less than a snail's pace. At worst, MESA's record on crimi- 
nal sanctions particularly in terms of the Scotia mine, indicates an 
institutional policy designed to thwart the intent of the law. "Whatever 
the case, MESA absolutely foiled to use one of its most potent enforce- 
ment weapons on a mine which amply demonstrated a willful and 
"wanton neglect" of federal coal mine health and safety standard.-,. 



23 

iv. mesa's policy governing the assessment and collection of 

MONETARY PENALTIES 

In addition to its mine closure and criminal sanction authority,. 
MESA has the power to assess and collect monetary penalties for 
violations of coal mine health and safety standards. While this author- 
ity is not as potent as closing a mine or bringing criminal charges, it 
can, if properly used, serve as an effective enforcement tool. 

With respect to the Scotia mine, it has been concluded that MESA's 
use of its monetary penalty powers was totally ineffective in bringing 
about compliance with the federal standards. A review of the record 
clearly indicates that the penalty amounts assessed by MESA against 
Scotia for violations were low to begin with, and the fines actually 
collected were substantially lower. Given Scotia's continued and 
repeated violations, it can be assumed that the Company viewed the 
MESA fines merely as nuisances, with little or no lasting impact on 
the Company's safety and health attitudes or policies. Scotia ap- 
parently found it cheaper to pay the fines than to comply with the 
law. MESA's efforts in this regard must be regarded as nothing more 
than a "slap on the hand." 

MESA's authority 

Section 109(a)(1) of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act provides 
that an operator of a coal mine in which a violation of a mandatory 
standard occurs shall be assessed a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per 
violation. According to the Act, "In determining the amount of the 
penalty, the Secretary of Interior shall consider the operator's history 
of previous violations, the appropriateness of such penalty to the 
size of the business of the operator charged, whether the operator was 
negligent, the effect on the operator's ability to continue in business, 
the gravity of the violation, and the demonstrated good faith of the 
operator charged in attempting to achieve rapid compliance after 
notification of a violation." 

Of all the criteria spelled out for determining the amount of the 
penalty, Congress intended the negligence factor to be pre-eminent. 
According to the House-Senate Conference Report which accompanied 
the Act, "The Secretary shall apply the more appropriate negligence 
test in determining the amount of the penalty, recognizing that the 
operator has a high degree of care to insure the health and safety of 
persons in the mine." 

MESA monetary penalty record j or the Scotia Mine 

According to MESA, about $78,000 in fines have been collected from 
Scotia during the period from May 1970 to March 1976. While on its 
face this figure might appear impressive, it represents only a fraction 
of the total fines assessed against the Company. In many cases, the 
amount actually collected from Scotia was as much as 50% less than 
the amount initially assessed. 

A more appropriate way of analyzing MESA's monetary penalty 
record is to examine the specific Scotia figures. For example, the 
highest penalty assessed against Scotia for a ventilation violation 
during the period January 1974 to June 1975 (the latest figures 
available) was $582, assessed on 4/18/75 for a Part 75.301 violation, 
"not enough air reaching the working face of the mine." The amount 



24 

actually collected for this violation was $291, or reduettai. Ai 

a matter of fact, this $291 was the largest amount ever paid by 

ia for a ventilation violation during the January L974-June 

1975 period. 

A- for other types of violations, the following represents the highest 
penalties d and collected from Scotia during the 1**74 -197/5 

period : 

• Electrical equipment: highest assessed penalty 8(364; highest 
collected penalty $190; a reduction of almost 50 percei 

• CombustiDle Materials and Rock Dusting: highest asse 
penalty $1746; highest collected penalty $873; a reduction of 50 
percent : 

• Fire Protection: highest assessed penalty $436; highest collected 
penalty $275; a reduction of almost 40 percent; 

• Dust Standards: highest assessed penalty $218; highest collected 
penalty $102; a reduction of more than 50 percent; 

• Trailing Cables and Grounding: highest assessed penalty $582; 
highest collected penalty $291; a reduction of 50 percent; 

• Roof Support: highest assessed penalty $1104; highest collected 
penalty $582; a reduction of 50 percent; 

• Surface Work Areas: highest assessed penalty $436; highest 
collected penalty $400; a reduction of less than 10 percent; 

• Maps, Hoistings and Mantrips: highest assessed penalty $73; 
highest collected penalty $50; a reduction of some 30 percent; 

• Miscellaneous: highest assessed penalty $220; highest collected 
penalty $220; no reduction. 

To further illustrate MESA's low assessment and even lower 
collection rates, the following is instructive with respect to ventilation 
violations at the Scotia mine: 

• Jan. -Mar., 1974: average assessed penalty $296; average collected 
penalty $144; 

• April-June, 1974: average assessed penalty $288; average col- 
lected penalty $167; 

• July-Sept., 1974: average assessed penalty $159; average col- 
lected penalty $140; 

• Oct.-Dec, 1974: average assessed penalty $140; average collected 
penalty $100. 

• Jan.-Mar., 1975: average assessed penalty $222; average collected 
penalty $140; 

• April-June, 1975: Average assessed penalty $134; average col- 
lected penalty $98. 

(Notb. — These figures were compiled by the Senate Subcommittee on 
Labor with the assistance of the General Accounting Office.) 

Another factor inhibiting effective enforcement at Scotia was the 
time lag from the date of a violation to the date of assessment, and 
from the date of violation to the date of collection. For ventilation 
violations at the Scotia mine, during the period January 1974- 
February 1976, this lag averaged IDS days from the violation to the 
te, and 270 days from the violation to the collection date. 
In other words, for ventilation violations at the Scotia mine it took an 
average of almost nine months from the time a violation was found 
until the time the assessed penalty — reduced in some cases by as much 
as 50 percent — was actually collected. 



25 

It should be noted here that over the course of its enforcement 
efforts at the Scotia mine MESA has, on three separate occasions, 
assessed the maximum civil penalty of $10,000. Two of the three 
cases involved fatalities and the other involved serious physical 
injuries. All three accidents occurred prior to the March 9 and 
March 11, 1976 explosions. In one of the fatality cases, Scotia settled 
out of court and paid a fine of $5,500. The other two $10,000 penalty 
assessment cases are pending. 

MESA's attitude towards penalties 

In reviewing MESA's record on monetary penalties against the 
Scotia mine, it appears that, at the very least, MESA did not apply 
the criteria spelled out in the law for determining penalty amounts. 
While it is true that an affected operator has the right to appeal an 
;sed penalty to the Secretary of the Interior and ultimately to 
the courts, it is equally true that the law places upon the Secretary 
the responsibility^ for applying certain criteria for determining the 
amount of the penalty. 

As indicated above, the law instructs the Secretary to make a 
determination based upon: 

• the operator's previous history of violations; 

• the size of the operator's business; 

• the operator's negligence; 

« the ability of the operator to remain in business; 

• the gravity of the violation; and 

• the demonstrated good faith of the operator to comply. 

When compared to Scotia's history of violations and MESA's 
monetary penalty response to those violations, it is clear that MESA 
failed to apply these criteria. One would think that as Scotia built 
its record of repeated violations, MESA would have increased the 
fines for each succeeding violation. However, the available MESA 
records clearly indicate the reverse. The numbers available from 
January 1974 to June 1975, clearly indicate a trend towards reduced 
average penalty assessments and collections. 

In other words, rather than increasing the penalties as the viola- 
tions mounted — as the law implicitly instructs — MESA actually 
reduced or, at best, kept constant the size of the penalties during 
the period 1974-1975. 

During the Joint House-Senate hearings, MESA and Interior 
Department officials were repeatedly questioned on MESA's penalty 
assessment and collection policies and efforts. These officials gave 
the panel no sound reason why the initial assessments for violations 
at the Scotia mine were low, given the mine's history of repeated 
violations. As a matter of fact, MESA Administrator Robert Barrett 
admitted to Representative Perkins that "they (the assessments) are 
too low ... I will agree with that one hundred percent." As for the 
rather substantial reductions from the amount initially assessed to 
that ultimately collected, Robert Long, Associate Solicitor for MESA, 
sought to explain that the reductions, in general, resulted from the 
appeal process available under the law. However, Mr. Long did not 
explain the apparent pattern of reductions which, for the Scotia 
mine, approximate 50 percent in many eases. In terms of the long time 
lag from the finding of a violation to assessment and collection, Mr. 
Long also cited the various procedures involved in the appeal process. 



26 

From our review of MESA's policy governing monetary penalties, 
it is apparent that this policy failed and failed miserably as an effective 

enforcement tool with respect to the Scotia mine. In spite of all 
MESA's rationalizations and explanation-, it i- clear that the intent, 
if not the letter, of the law was insufficiently applied. Initial as 
ments for violations at the Scotia mine were low and were not com- 
mensurate with the mine'- history of violations. Also, on the average, 
there appears to be a consistent pattern of an approximate 50 percent 
reduction in the amount collected as compared to the amount initially 
3sed. The time lag from violation to assessment and collection 
provided Scotia with little incentive to comply with the law. In addi- 
tion, the only instances where MESA even attempted to bring the full 
civil penalty weight of the law to bear on Scotia, by assessing the 
maximum allowable penalty, involved two cases of fatalities and one 
ease of serious physical injuries. Thus far, MESA has only collected a 
penalty in one of those fatality cases, the collected amount being some 
45 percent less than the $10,000 initially assessed. 

From the facts at hand, it appears" that MESA's attitude with 
respect to monetary penalties at the Scotia mine consisted of: 

1. Only applying the maximum penalty in cases where deaths 
or serious physical injuries had already occurred; 

2. In other cases only making those assessments which the 
agency thought it could collect; 

3. In many, if not most, cases settling for something approx- 
imating 50 percent in actual dollars collected; 

4. Being apparently content with a process which permits a 
long lag time from the date of violation to the date of assessment 
and collection. 

v. mesa's policy governing health and safety inspections: 

As previously stated in this report, MESA failed to adequately 
apply its mine closure, criminal sanctions, and monetary penalty 
authority to effectively enforce the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act 
at the Scotia mine. In addition, the Scotia case demonstrates serious 
shortcomings in MESA's inspection efforts and activities. 

Even though the Scotia mine was the most inspected coal mine in 
Eastern Kentucky, MESA's inspection efforts at the mine had little 
impact on correcting Scotia's chronic health and safety problems. 
After some 1,000 man-days of inspection activity, the Scotia mine 
continued to repeatedly violate established federal health and safety 
standards. 

Robert Barrett, MESA's Administrator, has testified to the effect 
that MESA's investigation into the Scotia disaster has, among other 
things, uncovered some serious shortcomings in MESA's inspection 
procedures and policies. According to Barrett, "We have learned 
many things from the nine days of hearings (conducted by MESA) 
about explosions, the Scotia and Blue Diamond Coal Companies, and 
about the effectiveness and shortcomings of MESA." (emphasis added). 

In an attempt to correct some of these "shortcomings", Barrett 
told the Joint House-Senate panel that, among other actions, MESA 
was moving immediately to : 

• conduct frequenl "blitz" insp 

• conduct more detailed and lews of ventilation and 
miner training plans 






27 

• promulgate mandatory education and training standards; 

• implement a "mine" profile rating system"; 

• expand an on-going accident prevention program; 

• computerize and speed-up the assessments of civil penalties; 

• "beef-up" training of federal inspectors in areas of mine rescue 
and recovery work ; and 

• draft new standards requiring better emergency survival equip- 
ment and materials. 

While the items of this list point out some of MESA's shortcomings 
and while they are all, no doubt, necessary, there are a few specific 
"inspection-related" issues which should be examined with respect to 
the Scotia experience. These include "blitz" inspections, review of 
ventilation plans, and "mine profile rating systems". In terms of 
MESA's inspection efforts at the Scotia mine, all three of these 
activities were either lacking or seriously inadequate. Rather than 
using the "blitz" inspection approach where the entire mine is in- 
spected by a team of inspectors — particularly for ventilation and 
methane problems — MESA's most common type of Scotia inspections 
were one man, spot inspections. As for Scotia's ventilation plan, 
MESA's review and evaluation of it was, at best, sloppy. In terms of 
a profile of the safety history of the Scotia mine, such a profile was all 
but non-existant. 

Spot inspections 

MESA's most common health and safety inspection approach 
to the Scotia mine involved spot inspections designed to check on 
specific and limited conditions in a rather short period of time. Spot 
inspections are compared to what MESA calls "regular health and 
safety" inspections which are designed to examine the entire mine or 
major working portions thereof. 

A review of MESA inspection records indicates that from May 1970 
to February 1976, MESA conducted 225 spot inspections of the Scotia 
mine compared to only 23 "regular" inspections. During this period, 
MESA also conducted 113 special hazard inspections and 169 mis- 
cellaneous inspections. Prior to the March 9, 1976, explosion, the 
last "regular" MESA inspection of the Scotia mine occurred during 
an eight-week period in January-February 1976, about a month before 
the disaster. 

In the opinion of some professionals, spot inspections have very 
little overall impact. Elton D. Rea, a highly respected, retired MESA 
inspector with considerable experience in gassy mines, told the joint 
House-Senate panel, "I am against spot inspections . . all you are 
getting is numbers ... It ought to be complete inspections ... If 
you are going to make a complete inspection of that mine, it is all 
right to spot the mine in between time occasionally ... So I just do 
not think that MESA is gaining anything by spot inspections outside 
a bunch of numbers to put on the books." 

By definition, spot inspections are very limited in both scope and 
time. When conducting such inspections, MESA inspectors usually 
look for a specific mine condition and have only a few hours in which 
to complete the work. The result, unfortunately, is that an inspector 
very often will miss hazardous conditions which exist independent of 
those he is checking for, and also, his expertise may not be appropriate 
for recognizing other hazards. A case in point is Cecil Davis, the 
MESA inspector who conducted the inspection of the Scotia mine 
less than 24 hours prior to the March 9, 1976 explosion. 



28 

During the investigative hearings conducted by MESA, Davis- 
who is a respirable dust technician — -was repeatedly questioned as to 
why he failed to notice the change in ventilation, and the lack of 
proper stoppings. According to the hearing transcript: 

Question. Well, Let me ask you this again first. A chock of the ventilation 

controls at the intersection (near where the explosion occurred), would that have 
a normal part of your inspection that night (March 8th) r 

1 ).wis. Xo Sir. 

Question. And why would it not have been'.' 

Davis. My instructions, you have really got a lot to do if you are evaluating 
respirable dust. And all the different aspects that go with this particular type of 
inspection. We are instructed that the only thing that we are to be concerned with is 
the condition of the section in by the section loading point which is the ta\ 
(emphasis added) 

Question. Are you saying that when you went up the track through the inter- 
section into 2 Left and there was no curtain that ... it would ii"t hav< 
part of your inspection to have considered the potential trouble spot up the 
Main? 

Davis. Xo sir. Any outby areas, that is not part of my inspection, any outby 
areas. Now, I have instruction from my supervisor, Mr. Herman Lucas, if I 
have to spend more than one day on a particular section that I will examine the 
p rmissible equipment and go into some of the other aspects of coal mine in- 
spections work, if I have to spend more than one day. 

Question. You say that your instructions as a technical specialist are that you 
don't look at anything outby the tailpiece in the working section? 

Davis. This is our instructions. 

Question. But by the same token are you not a DAR (Duly Authorized 
Representative) ? 

Davis. Yes Sir. 

Question. Is not a DAR required to issue notices for every violation observed? 

Davis. Yes Sir. 

Question. I just can't quite conceive of a concept that you close your eyes 
until you get into the tailpiece? 

Davis. No Sir. 

Question. You can't rationalize that? 

Davis. As I stated in my notes, I observed the roof condition and observed 
that areas appeared rock dusted, well rock dusted. 

Question. But I think that a check (air curtain) not being there, it should have 
been observed and it should have triggered a question in your mind as to how the 
straight was being ventilated? 

Davis. Well, I hadn't examined any outby area. 

From this exchange it is rather obvious that the Davis inspection 
was very limited in scope (respirable dust), time (a number of hours) 
and approach (Davis was only instructed to inspect a specific mine 
area). While Davis did cite the mine for two ventilation violations — 
not enough air reaching the mine's face — there were other ventilation 
problems that he either did not observe, or was not competent to 
recognize; "I am not a ventilation expert" Davis told the MESA 
panel. During the MESA hearings, Davis also stated, "As far as 
ventilation is concerned, the only part of the ventilation I am actually 
interested in is the dust supplement . . ." 

There is nothing in the record which demonstrates that the Davis 
inspection was very much different from the other 225 spot inspections 
that MESA conducted in the Scotia mine. On only 23 separate oc- 
casions since 1970 was the mine subjected to an entire examination. 
Even in these instances of "regular" health and safety inspections 
only one, or perhaps two, MESA inspectors were used. As previously 
indicated, there is evidence in the record to indicate that Scotia 
personnel, rather routinely, engaged in deceptive practices with 
respect to one-man MESA inspections. While an inspector was check- 



29 

ing for adequate ventilation, for example, in one section of the mine, 
Scotia personnel were robbing air from another section to assure that 
the section being inspected was receiving adequate air supplies. 

As for MESA Administrator Barrett's plans to conduct "blitz" 
inspections, we applaud his initiative. Unlike spot or, for that matter, 
"regular" health and safety inspections, we believe that the "blitz" 
approach, utilizing teams of MESA inspectors throughout an entire 
mine, will serve to make MESA inspections more meaningful and 
productive. 

MESA's review and evaluation oj Scotia's ventilation plans 

One of the major issues involved in the Scotia disaster has to do 
with the adequacy of the mine's ventilation system. In terms of 
MESA's enforcement efforts regarding Scotia's ventilation plan, our 
investigation has raised a question as to the adequacy of MESA's 
efforts in reviewing and properh' evaluating Scotia's ventilation plan. 
To begin with, there is a serious unanswered question as to the 
unusual length of time involved in MESA's approval of Scotia's 1976 
ventilation plan. Scotia submitted its 1976 plan in January which 
MESA neither approved or denied. On March 1, Scotia submitted 
another version of its proposed ventilation plan, but as of the date of 
the first explosion MESA had taken no action. According to R. Keene, 
MESA Mining Engineer for the Pikeville District Office, such a delay 
was unusual. Keene told the MESA investigation panel that any 
length of time in excess of a month or six weeks for MESA to act on a 
proposed ventilation plan was unusual. Thus far we have been unable 
to determine why, after nearly 2 l/ 2 months preceding the March 9 
explosion, MESA failed to take action on Scotia's proposed ventilation 
plan. 

Another concern we have regarding Scotia's ventilation plan is the 
MESA procedures for evaluating and reviewing such plans. According 
to MESA mining engineer R. Keene, ventilation plans are approved 
on the basis of air quantity figures supplied to MESA by the com- 
pany, and then periodically checked by MESA inspectors to deter- 
mine compliance. During the MESA investigation hearings Keene 
was asked: 

Question. In the ventilation quantities that are reported to you, these quan- 
tities are measured by the section foreman or by Mr. Bently or whomever is 
making the mine. You do not personally go in periodically and make a check on 
the ventilation or quantities in any locations in the mine? 

Keene. The plan is approved based on what the Company submits. This 
plan is checked periodicall}' by coal mine safety inspectors and the ventilation 
department. 

To a certain extent, Mr. Keene's contention that the ventilation 
plan is periodically checked to determine compliance is substantiated 
b} T the record. During the lo-month period prior to the Scotia disaster, 
the mine had been cited 18 times for failure to comply with the ap- 
proved ventilation plan. However, the record also indicates that it is 
extremely difficult for a single MESA inspector to determine full 
compliance with the approved ventilation plan. Herschel Potter, 
Chief of MESA's Division of Safety, told the Joint House-Senate 
panel that the only way to determine the adequacy of a mine's venti- 
lation system would be to conduct a complete ventilation sun 
"but there is no way that that inspector making an inspection co 



30 

have come to that point." The last ventilation survey conducted at 
the Scotia mine was in 1974. 

A very important example of where the MESA ventilation plan 
inspection system broke down can be found in MESA's last "regular" 
health and safety inspection of the Scotia mine conducted prior to 
the March 9 explosion. During the period January -February 1976, 
MESA inspectors spent about eight weeks inspecting the entire 
Scotia mine. However, this inspection failed to take notice of the 
fact that coal production had been altered in that section of the mine 
which subsequently exploded. Prior to initiating production in this 
section, 2 Left panel off 2 Southeast main, Scotia, in violation of 
MESA regulations, failed to notify MESA of its intentions. Thus, 
when production in this section was begun in February, Scotia 
violated its ventilation plan and remained in violation of the plan 
through the disasters of March 9 and March 11. During the MESA 
investigation hearings, MESA mining engineer Keene was questioned 
about this development. According to the hearing transcript: 

Question. Should you have been notified that 2 Left was begun? 

Keene. That is the requirement of the plan; that the projection be shown on 
each approved map. 

Question. Were you not made aware that they moved into 2 Left? 

Keene. When I first became aware that they moved into 2 Left was when they 
submitted the map on March 1st. 

Question. However, they moved in there roughly around ? 

Keene. About a month prior to that date. The section was advanced approxi- 
mately four breaks at that time (March 1st). . 

Question. Did you consider that a violation of the ventilation plan? 

Keene. I would. 

The two points we want to make here — in addition to the fact that 
the Company violated its approved ventilation plan — are: 

1. MESA's eight week "regular" inspection of the Scotia mine 
was conducted about the same time that production was started 
in the 2 Left section but the inspection failed to uncover the fact 
that this production activity violated Scotia's ventilation plan. 

2. Keene was aware of the fact that Scotia was in violation of 
its ventilation plan on March 1st, eight days before the explosion, 
but there is no record of him or anyone else from MESA taking 
any action against Scotia for this violation. 

Given this experience, we are of the opinion that MESA's review, 
evaluation, and enforcement actions vis-a-vis the Scotia ventilation 
plan were, at best, sloppy. We question MESA's unusual delay in 
taking action on Scotia's 1976 ventilation plan. We question MESA's 
policy of accepting company data upon which plans are approved. 
We question the adequacy of MESA's inspection and enforcement 
actions for determining ventilation plan compliance. There is little 
doubt that Mr. Barrett's intentions to more adequately review and 
evaluate ventilation plans are absolutely necessary. 

Mine Profile Eating System 

According to MESA Administrator Barrett, the agency is moving to 
fully implement a "mine profile rating system", now in a pilot stage, 
"to better pinpoint mining operations for increased enforcement." 
Barrett said that in addition to relying on accident injury experience, 
the new system also ''takes into account the history and nature of 
violations of federal standards at a mine and the health and safety 
management system at the mine." 



31 

It is very unfortunate that MESA lias waited this long to initiate 
such a system. Our review of the entire Scotia record indicates that 
MESA's enforcement efforts at the mine failed to include, or even be 
effectively cognizant of, the "history and nature of violations of fed- 
eral standards at the mine, and the health and safety management 
at the mine." 

Our research into the Scotia disaster has raised two significant 
questions with respect to the use of enforcement information at the 
Scotia mine : 

1. Whether local MESA officials adequately utilized the infor- 
mation they had on the Scotia mine, particularly its history of 
violations. 

2. Whether MESA's national information system was such so 
as to bring Scotia- type mines to the attention of top MESA 
officials. 

Based upon what is now known, it must be concluded that local 
MESA officials responsible for the Scotia mine did not adequately and 
effectively use the information they had on Scotia, and that MESA's 
national information system was insufficient in bringing Scotia-type 
mines to the attention of top MESA officials. 

Based upon the Joint House-Senate Committee hearings, the fol- 
lowing has been determined with respect to the use and flow of MESA 
enforcement information : 

• as with other mines in the area, the history of MESA's enforce- 
ment activities at the Scotia mine consisted solely of a collection 
of previous inspection reports ; 

• local MESA management officials testified that their inspectors 
were instructed to review each of the prior inspection reports be- 
fore conducting a mine inspection; 

• at least one local MESA official testified, however, that inspec- 
tors were only required to review the last prior inspection report 
before conducting an inspection; 

• the local MESA officials were vague as to what use was made 
of the inspection information forwarded to the national or re- 
gional offices. One such local official said that he "could care 
less" what happened to the information once it left the local 
office ; 

• the flow of enforcement related information stopped at the 
district or subdistrict office level, thereby never effectively reach- 
ing MESA's upper eshelons. 

All of these points were succinctly dramatized by Representative 
John H. Dent, Chairman of the House Committee on Education and 
Labor's Subcommittee on Labor Standards, in his questioning of 
MESA officials during the Joint House-Senate hearings. The following 
excerpts from the May 13, 1976, hearing provides some insight into 
MESA's enforcement information system: 

Dent. In asking the question of Mr. Taylor (Ben Taylor, MESA Coal Mine 

Inspection Supervisor, Wiiitesburg, Kentucky, office) the Chairman, Mr. Williams, 
asked him what disposition was made of the reports of the inspectors. Be said 
that he just sent them all up, passed them on through. Then he was asked what 
happens to them after they leave his office. He said he could care less . . . Would 
it not have been proper and probably essential that he would make son:, 1 notations 
on his transmittal and a note for himself stating and adding up these violations 
so that someone up above w 11 take a look at them . . . There was no notice 



32 

anywhere from anyone t luil we talked to that even had an idea that these violations 
were that numerous in any particular month? 

Phillips. 'Lawrence Phillips, MESA District Manager. Pikeville. Kentucky, 
office) This has already been addressed and Mr. Potter (Herschel Potter. * 
<>f MESA's Division of Safety) apologized for Mr. Taylor's comments. Tney do 
not reflect our thinking. You talked to the wrong coal mining inspector. The one 

under him is Mr. Herman Lucas. The report< are reviewed very, very thoroughly 
by him . . . 

Dent. (Later in the hearing. Do you up at the top in your position as Chief of 
Safety, have a law (regulation) on this particular mine (Scotia) because of its 
operation and the multiplicity of violations . . . ? 

Potter. An inspection history of every coal mine is available in the field office 
from which it is inspected. A copy of that report is sent to the district or sub- 
district office . . . The inspectors' instructions are contrary to what Mr. Taylor's 
statement was to you. They are to review the inspection history of the mines 
prior to making the inspection, look at the ventilation plan, training plans 
everything that is supposed to be submitted by the operators prior to making an 
inspection. Those inspection reports are not mailed to the Arlington (Virginia) 
office (MESA's National Headquarters). 

(Later in the dialogue Potter -aid that the data collected nationally) "do- 
contain the component history of an inspection that we need to know prior to 
making an inspection." 

What is particularly revealing about this testimony is that in the 
first place, there is confusion on the local MESA level as to how 
thoroughly MESA inspectors are to review a given mine's history. 
Phillips and Potter said that inspectors were to review the entire 
history, while Taylor had previously testified that inspectors were to 
only review the last inspection report. In addition, the above testi- 
mony clearly indicates that for enforcement purposes all of the perti- 
nent information remains at the local level, never reaching top MESA 
officials. 

Another more serious issue — one which is perhaps fundamental to 
tliis investigation — is, even if the local MESA officials were completely 
aware of Scotia's entire safety history, there is very little evidence to 
suggest (hat this knowledge affected MESA's enforcement effort- at 
the mine. As this report has shown, MESA's enforcement record at 
the Seotia mine was neither progressive nor cumulative in taking 
punitive actions against Scotia for repeated, chronic and, we believe, 
willful violations of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. 

If the local MESA management officials were thoroughly aware of 
Scotia's history, why did they not more fully use their mine closure 
authority, or their criminal sanctions power, or their monetary penalty 
authority? If these officials knew of Scotia's safety and health record, 
why does the record not show progressively more inspections of the 
entire mine rather than a continuation of spot inspections; and if the 
inspectors were to carefully review the mine's ventilation plan, why 
did the eight-week inspection in January-February 1976 fail to uncover 
the fact thai Scotia was violating its ventilation plan? Further, if, as 
Mr. Potter suggests, inspectors were to review a mine's employee 
training plan, why was it that Scotia was never once cited for failure 
to conduct fire 1 and evacuation drills? 

It appear- to us that if MESA knew all that should have been known 
about the health and safety history of the Scotia Mine, and thus 
continued to exercise the kind of enforcement policies that the record 
indicates were exercised, then something is very radically wrong with 
MESA's overall approach. 11" this analysis of MESA's enforcement 
policies al the Scotia mine is even (lose to being correct, and we 



33 

believe it is, then the reforms outlined by Mr. Barrett — while no doubt 
necessary — simply do not go far enough. We believe that MESA's 
enforcement efforts and policies with respect to the Scotia mine were 
such that the Company essentially was permitted to ignore the law. 
We further believe that the March 9 and March 11 disasters could 
and should have been prevented. 

Scotia Coal Mine Explosions . . . March 9 and March 11, 1976 

While all the causal factors involved in the Scotia disaster have yet 
to be determined, enough is presently known about the March 9 and 
March 11 explosions to warrant examination and analysis. To 
adequately conduct such an analysis, it is useful to examine the events 
of March 9 and March 11 in four separate chronological stages: 

1. The period from March 8th to the first explosion on March 
9th; 

2. The period between the March 9th and March 11th ex- 
plosions ; 

3. The period immediately following the March 11th explosion 
to the sealing of the mine ; 

4. The period from the mine's sealing to the present. 

I. PERIOD COVERING THE FIRST EXPLOSION 

Based upon our investigation and research, the staff has determined 
that there were at least five major issues involved in the first explosion: 

1. The nature of the MESA inspection conducted on Mnrch 8th, 
less than 24 hours before the first explosion; 

2. The nature of the March 9th preshift examination of the 
mine by Scotia officials; 

3. The ventilation status of that section of the mine where the 
explosion occurred (2 Southeast main) ; 

4. The possible ignition sources involved in the first explosion; 

5. The safety status of the six miners who survived the initial 
explosion but who subsequently suffocated to death. 

The March 8 MESA Insj^ction.—On March 8, 1976, MESA in- 
spector Cecil Davis spent approximately eight hours underground 
inspecting the Scotia mine. In terms of the explosion which occurred 
the next day, two major questions have arisen with respect to the 
Davis inspection: 

1. Was the inspection sufficiently adequate to have uncovered 
and corrected the conditions which led to the first explosion? 

2. Did Scotia personnel engage in activities designed to deceive 
the MESA inspector, particularly in terms of the ventilation 
conditions in that general section of the mine which exploded? 

While the specific causes of the first explosion have yet to be 
determined, there is general agreement that the conditions which 
led to the explosion in the 2 Southeast main (2SEM) included an 
explosive build-up of methane gas, inadequate ventilation, and an 
ignition source. As to whether some of these conditions existed in 
2SEM on March 8th, it is not our purpose to either fix individual 
blame or to call into question the professional competence of MESA 
inspector Davis. However, based on a review of the available evid< n< e, 
the staff has concluded that by its very nature, the March 8th MESA 



34 

inspection was insufficient so far as the conditions in 2SEM wore 
concerned. On the question of deceptive practices, the record contains 
evidence of such practices including violations of the ventilation sys- 
tem in 2SEM to achieve temporary ventilation compliance with a 
MESA notice of violation in the 2 Left panel, off 2SEM. 

In terms of the Davis inspection, the record indicates that it was 
limited in both purpose and scope. During his testimony before the 
MESA investigation panel Davis said that he was a "coal mine 
health technical specialist" and his primary job was "concerned 
with the evaluation of respirable dust and noise." According to 
Davis, his assignment on March 8 was "to begin evaluations (respir- 
able dust) of the — all sections of the Scotia, Upper Taggart Mine 
in the 'B' seam . . . This would be a complete health (inspection) 
of the entire Blue Diamond operations at Oven Fork", (emphasis 
added) Davis stated that the geographic focus of his March Mh 
inspection was the 2 Left Panel (so-called "tailpiece") off 2SEM. 
Except for noticing general mine conditions as he traveled to the 
designated area, the only section which Davis inspected was the 
2 Left Panel. It is critical to this analysis to note that Davis did not 
go into, nor did he inspect, that portion of 2SEM where the explosion 
occurred. It should be noted that the 2 Left Panel is adjacent to 
2SEM, according to Davis: 

My instructions, you have really got a lot to do if you are evaluating respirable 
dust. And all the different aspects that go into this particular type of inspection. 
We are instructed that the only thing that we are to be concerned with is the 
condition of the section inby the section loading point which is the tailpiece 
(2 Left Panel). 

Davis testified it was not part of his inspection to inspect 2SEM 
for ventilation or other possible hazardous conditions. According 
to the MESA hearing transcript: 

Question. Are you saying that when you went up the track through the inter- 
section into 2 Left and there was no curtain (air regulator) that it would not 
have been part of your inspection to have considered the potential trouble spot 
up the Main (where the explosion occurred)? 

Davis. No Sir. Any outby areas, that is not my inspection . . . 

While it is obvious that Davis' major concern was respirable dust 
conditions in the 2 Left Panel, he did in fact notice other mine con- 
ditions, and cited Scotia for a number of violations including: 

• Insufficient air reaching the face of the 2 Left Panel (less than 
the required 9,000 cubic feet out from the face); 

• The line curtain used for directing air to the number 5 entry 
working face of 2 Left was more than 10 feet out from the face; 

• Eleven water sprays on the continuous miner in the 2 Left 
section were inoperable; 

• The average concentration of respirable dust was 5.2 milligrams 
per cubic meter of air, which was excessive. 

From the Davis testimony it is clear that while he conducted a 
rather complete examination of the 2 Left Panel, the very limited 
nature of his inspection could not have uncovered or corrected any 
dangerous conditions in that section of 2SEM which subsequently 
exploded. 

Of all the disturbing aspects of the Davis inspection, perhaps the 
most disturbing is related to his citation for inadequate air reaching 
the working face of the 2 Left Panel, and the deceptive manner in 
which Scotia employees '"corrected" the violation. According to 



35 

Davis, he issued the insufficient air notice between 3:30 P.M. and 
4:00 P.M. When he remeasured the air flow at 6:00 P.M. he found 
it adequate at 10,472 cubic feet per minute. Without attempting 
to determine how and from where the additional air was obtained, 
Davis terminated the notice he had issued two hours before. 

Testimony taken at the MESA investigation hearings strongly 
suggests that temporary "compliance" with the Davis notice was 
achieved by "robbing" air from other sections of the mine and di- 
verting it into the 2 Left Panel. According to Merle Rhodes, assistant 
mine foreman at Scotia, he was aware that Scotia management 
officials were considering erecting temporary curtains to divert more 
air from 2SEM into the 2 Left Panel. Rhodes said that lie counseled 
against the use of such curtains because they might permit dangerous 
concentrations of methane to build-up in the upper portion of 2SEM. 
According to the hearing transcript: 

Question. You say that you were not aware of nor were you present when 
there was discussion regarding the hanging of two checks (curtains) across the 
straight (of 2SEM), that is four and five? 

Rhodes. The boss asked me about hanging them and I told him not to hang 
the curtains. 

Question. The boss is? 

Rhodes. James Williams (the section foreman). 

Question. But you were aware that he was (planning to hang the curtains)? 

Rhodes. He didn't say what particular vicinity he was going to hang the 
curtains. If he did, I didn't catch it. He was talking about hanging some curtains 
and you know I thought that is what he was talking about (hanging them to 
divert air) . I told him not to hang it because of the gas accumulating. 

Question. But you knew that he was thinking about it? 

Rhodes. I know he said he had been told to do it but I don't know whether he 
had or not. 

The record indicates that Williams, with the assistance of other 
Scotia employees, did in fact hang the curtains thereby diverting air 
into the 2 Left Panel by interrupting the air flow into 2SEM. Gary 
Smith, a Scotia utility man told the MESA panel that he helped 
Williams hang the air diverting curtains. According to the MESA 
hearing transcript: 

Question. Are you aware that he (MESA Inspector Davis) had taken an air 
reading and it was deficient? 

Smith. Yes. 

Question. After he took the air reading and let the section foreman (Williams) 
know that there was a violation, what was done to correct that violation as far 
as you know? 

Smith We hung block curtains up there (2SEM) in the track at four and five. 

Question. Were you instructed to do that? 

Smith. Yes. 

Question. You were instructed to put up two check curtains? 

Smith. Yes. 

Question. Across four and five — 

Smith. Four and five. 

Question. In the main? 

Smith. Yes. 

Question. You were instructed to do this by whom? 

Smith. Bird Dog. Jim is his real name. 

Question. Mr. Williams? 

Smith. Yes. 

Question. Was anyone else present when you were hanging these curtains? 

Smith. Yes, Hargus Maggard and Jim (Williams), they helped me. 

Question. Were there any others who were aware of the fact that you were 
hanging curtains? 



36 

a. Not tight then. 

someone aware of it? 

Smith. Yes, Carl Smith and Matnack went and took them down. Roy Matnaek. 
QUESTION. Mr. Smith, was the inspector aware of what you were doing? 

. ; ii. No, 
Question. Was there any reason given to you for hanging those che< 
Smith. We didn't have enough air. That is what Bird Dog (Jim Williams) said. 
And that was good enough. 

Thus in terms of the March Sth MESA inspection, the record 
indicates that it was conducted by a "coal mine health technical 
specialist" whose primary purpose was to evaluate the respirable dust 
conditions exclusively in the 2 Left Panel oif 2SEM. The record also 
shows that the MESA inspector did not go into that section of 2SEM 
where the explosion occurred, and therefore could not have been 
aware of any dangerous conditions in that section. In addition, the 
record supports the assumption that "something" was wrong with the 
ventilation in 2SEM including: the 2 Left Panel, and that Scotia 
employees purposefully diverted air from 2SEM into the 2 Left Panel 
so as to achieve temporary "compliance" with the Davis violation 
notice. In this respect, whatever was technically wrong with the 
ventilation in 2 Left Panel was never corrected, and may have been 
one of the factors contributing to the March 9th explosion. 

March 9 Preshift Examination. — The Coal Mine Health and 
Safety Act requires a preshift examination for possible hazardous 
ventilation, methane, and other conditions within three hours prior 
to any miner entering an active working area of the mine. The Act 
also requires that such examinations are to be conducted at least 
once a week in those "idle" areas of a mine in which no one is working. 

In terms of the March 9th explosion, it has been determined that 
the required preshift examination of 2SEM was not conducted, and 
that the Scotia official directly responsible for the preshift inspection 
falsely signed the inspection records. 

Before detailing the nature of the March 9th preshift examination 
(fireboss inspection), it is necessary to briefly characterize the status of 
2SEM and its 2 Left Panel prior to the explosion. In early February 
1976, active mining at the face of 2SEM was temporarily discontinued 
because Scotia's existing mining equipment was not adequate to 
efficiently mine the high coal face. While the Company awaited the 
delivery of the necessary machinery to resume production at the 
face of 2SEM, it began production in the 2 Left Panel off 2SEM. As 
previously noted, Scotia failed to report this new production to MESA 
and thus was in violation of the mine's ventilation plan. 

Given the fact that production had stopped at the face of 2SEM, 
there is some question as to its preshift examination status. The 
Scotia officials directly responsible for the preshift inspection testified 
that because production at the face of 2SEM had stopped, the}- con- 
sidered that section as "idle" and therefore not requiring the noces^ary 
preshifl inspection. However, other Scotia officials testified that they 
idered the section "active" and therefore subject to inspection 
prior to each shift. In the staff's opinion this latter judgment should 
have prevailed because at least a week prior to March 9, a decision was 
made to use the upper portion of 2SEM as a storage area for track rails 
that were to be used in the section once production at the face resumed. 

On the morning of March 9th, two Scotia employees, who were 
subsequently killed in the first explosion, were instructed to take the 



37 

initial load of track rails into the 2SEM storage area. To move the 
rails these men used two locomotive-, one equipped with air breaks 
operated by an automatic compressor. By ordering men into 2SBM, all 
doubt should have been removed as to the status of the section. 1 1 
an active section and should have been properly firebossed before the 
men and their locomotives went into the section. As previously stated, 
this examination was not made. Also, testimony presented at the 
MESA investigation hearings established that the preshift examina- 
tion records were falsified. 

The two Scotia officials directly responsible for the March 9th pre- 
shift examinations were Charles Fields, the third -shift fireboss, and 
Arvil Cornett, Scotia's third-shift foreman. From their testimony, and 
that of other Scotia officials, the following has been determined: 

1. The section of 2SEM which exploded was very seldom fire- 
bossed in the weeks immediately prior to March 9th; 

2. The section of 2SEM which exploded was not firebossed on 
March 9th; 

3. The only relevant section firebossed on March 9th was the 
2 Left Panel off 2SEM ; and 

4. The fireboss records for March 9th, and at other times, were 
falsified. 

During the MESA hearings Fields was asked: 

Question. Were you in 2 Southeast Mains after the (continuous) miner pulled 
out of that section of the mine where the explosions occurred? 

Fields. Yes. 

Question. How often did you get up there? 

Fields. Well not very often. 

Question. There were approximately six weeks between the time the equipment 
was pulled out of the Mains and moved to 2 Left. . . . How many times would you 
say during that five or six week period were you up the mains? 

Fields. Really I was up there I would say twice. 

When questioned as to whether he had firebossed the 2SEM section 
which exploded on March 9th, Fields told the MESA panel, "I didn't 
do it." As for Cornett, his testimony indicated that neither did he fire- 
boss that particular section. According to the hearing transcript: 

Question. On the night before the first explosion, or the morning, I should say, 
did you examine the 2 Southeast Mains and the 2 Left section of Southeast mains? 
Cornett. I examined the 2 Left section earlier. 
Question. Did you examine the Mains? 
Cornett. No, I didn't check the mains. I checked the 2 Left panel. 

In terms of falsifying the preshift examination records Fields testi- 
fied that he regularly signed the "fireboss book" indicating that he had 
conducted the required inspections when, in many cases he had not 
personally made the inspections for which he signed the book. A case in 
point was that Fields signed the" book for the March 9th inspection of 
the 2 Left Panel when, in fact, Cornett was the one who made the 
examination. According to the MESA hearing transcript: 

Question. This (the fireboss book) begins on 3/5/76 and those are the records of 
the preshift examinations that were signed for by Mr. Fields prior to the explosions. 
Those are your signatures at the bottom of this particular page (for March 9th.)? 
You agree they are copies of the fireboss book? 

Fields. Yes Sir. 

Question. And 3^ou signed for the exams? 

Fields. Yes. 

Question. But you did not make them? 

Fields. No. ► 



38 

Question (Later in the hearing). In other words when you made the presbift 

exam who and how was the policy established that would allow you to sign th< 
for someone else's examination? Was that vour own doing or how was that estab- 
lished? 

>S. Well I have done that ever since 1 have been there. 
JTION. And it W&a never called to your attention that that was not accord- 
ing to the way it should be? That is that you signed the books? You stated (in the 
- that places were ^afe, did not have hazardous conditions. You put measure- 
ments into the book. You signed the book. And yet someone else did in fact make 
the examination according to your testimony? 
Fields. Yes. 

From the record it is clear that prior to the two men and their loco- 
motives moving into 2SEM nothing was known about the immediate 
conditions of the section. The Scotia official who ordered them into 
that section — J. P. Feltner, a Scotia construction foreman — testified 
that he considered the section as "active" and assumed that it had 
been firebossed prior to the men beginning work. Fields and Cornett 
stated that they did not know that the two men were going into 2SEM 
on March 9th. Richard Combs, Scotia's general service foreman, 
stated that while he considered the section "idle", he thought that it 
was being firebossed once a week as required. Combs also said that he 
and Feltner had talked about using the section to store the track rails, 
but he did not know that the men were going into the section on March 
9th. Feltner, however, testified that he called Combs on the morning 
of March 9th and told him that the work was being carried out. 

Out of all this conflicting testimony comes the fact that for whatever 
reason, that section which exploded on March 9th had not been 
firebossed. As previously noted, the MESA inspection of March 8th 
uncovered evidence — which was not fully recognized by the MESA 
inspector — that there were ventilation problems in the 2SEM and 
2 Left Panel sections of the mine. Unfortunately, it is unknown as to 
what conditions would have been found in 2SEM had it been fire- 
bossed at least three hours preceding the shift in which the two men 
took their locomotives into the section. 

Ventilation and Methane in 2 Southeast Main (2SEM). — There is a 
general consensus that the conditions which caused the March 9th 
explosion in 2SEM included an explosive build-up (5 to 15 percent) of 
methane gas, inadequate ventilation, and an unknown ignition source. 
With respect to the ventilation and methane conditions in the general 
area of 2SEM the following is known: 

• coal production in the 2 Left panel off 2SEM violated Scotia's 
ventilation plan; 

• a methane gas feeder has been reported near the face of 2SEM; 

• ventilation problems were experienced in the 2 Left panel off 
2SEM both the (lay before and immediately prior to the explosion; 

• Scotia officials engaged in questionable practices to correct the 
ventilation problems the day before the explosion; 

• the -oct ion of 2SEM which exploded had not been firebossed for 
dangerous methane and ventilation conditions prior to the March 
9th shift when the two Scotia employees moved into the area with 
two locomotives, one of which was equipped with a questionable 
air compressor. 

Before discussing the above points, a few general observations on 
Scotia's ventilation and methane status should be made. First , it should 
be noted that there are differences between the Federal and State of 



30 

Kentucky's definitions of "adequate ventilation." The Federal Coal 
Mine Health and Safety Act describes adequate ventilation as a 
minimum of 9,000 cubic feet of air per minute passing over the last 
open cross-cut at the face of a mine. The Kentucky Department of 
Mines and Minerals, has, however, ruled that due to Scotia's high 
liberation of methane, 16,000 cubic feet per minute is required for 
safety. According to the record, the Scotia mine, at best, produced 
about 10,000 cubic feet of air per minute. 

The second observation has to do with the flow of air into the 2SEM 
region of the mine. The intake air for this section traveled up the right 
side of 2SEM across the face and down the left side of the main to the 
2 Left panel. By using air regulating curtains, the air moved up the 
right side of 2 Left panel, across its face, down the left side of the panel, 
and back out into the 2SEM shaft. What is significant about this air 
flow system is that according to Scotia's existing approved ventilation 
plan, no air should have been going into the 2 Left panel since Scotia 
did not have MESA's approval to be producing coal in the panel. 

The third observation is that some of the miners who appeared 
before the MESA investigation panel (Carlos Smith, Gary Smith, 
and Pat Pate) testified that ventilation in the 2 Left panel was often 
poor, and regulating curtains governing the air flow to the face of 
2SEM were often moved so as to improve the air in the 2 Left panel. 
Arvil Comett, Scotia's third-shift mine foreman, testified that the 
quantity of air reaching the 2 Left panel varied greatly, as much as 
4,000 cubic feet per minute from one reading to another. 

The final observation is simply to note what has been previously 
discussed in some detail; the Scotia mine had a long and repeated 
history of ventilation violations. From January 1974 to February 
1976, the mine was cited for 63 separate violations of federal ventilation 
standards. 

In terms of w T hat is specifically known concerning the ventilation 
and methane conditions in the 2SEM and the 2 Left panel at the 
time of the explosion, one of the most significant factors is that Scotia 
had no business even producing coal in the 2 Left panel. As previously 
noted, production in the panel was begun in February 1976, without 
informing and receiving MESA's approval. The first anyone from 
MESA knew of the new production was on March 1st when Scotia 
resubmitted its new ventilation plan. While MESA inspector Cecil 
Davis, on March 8, inspected the 2 Left panel, he obviously did not 
know that it was in violation of the ventilation plan. To begin pro- 
duction in the 2 Left panel, Scotia had to remove a permanent air 
stopping which had previously prevented the air in 2SEM from going 
into the panel. By removing this stopping and diverting air into the 
2 Left panel, Scotia nun" have effectiveiv short-circuited the air in the 
2SEM. 

In terms of methane gas production it is known that the Scotia mine 
was the most gassy mine in Eastern Kentucky, liberating 250,000 to 
500,000 cubic feet of gas per 24-hour period. In addition, the record 
indicates the prior existence of a methane gas feeder in the floor of 
2SEM near the face. Charles Fields, Scotia third-shift fireboss, 
testified that he knew of the feeder and had checked it while a< 
production was going on at the face of 2SEM, before the 2 Left ; 
was opened up. Fields said that when he measured the methane con- 



40 

centration at the floor, near the feeder, it registered ; ' percent. 

However, when he took the same reading at a level somewhat higher 

from the floor, ''it showed nothing." What this indicates is that while 
production was continuing at the face of 2SEM, before the 2 Left 
panel was begun, the ventilation up 2SEM was sufficient to disburse 
any methane being produced. However, once production at the face 
of 2SEM was discontinued and begun in the 2 Left panel, the ventila- 
tion system was changed. Since Fields only inspected the area ; 
during the six-week period prior to the explosion, very little was 
known concerning: the methane and ventilation of the upper 

section of 2SEM. 

If, as the record so indicates, ventilation problems were experienced 
in the 2 Left panel, both on the day before and immediately prior to 
the explosion, and if, as the record also indicates, Scotia employees 
encased in questionable practices to divert more air into the 2 Left 
panel by "robbing" air from 2SEM, then methane from the feeder 
and other possible sources could have built-up in 2SEM. 

Regarding ventilation problems experienced in the 2 Left panel the 
day before the explosion, it is known that MESA inspector Davis 
issued a violation notice to the effect that not enough air was reaching 
the face of 2 Left panel. At approximately 3:45 P.M., Davis measured 
the air reaching the face of 2 Left panel and found that it was only 
8.092 cubic feet per minute. He issued a notice which was terminated 
about 2 hours later when he remeasured the air flow and found it to 
be 10,472 feet per minute. iDavis never attempted to determine how 
the additional 2,360 feet was achieved. As previously discussed, 
Scotia foreman Jim Williams ordered a curtain hung across the 2SEM 
shaft thereby interrupting the air flow up the main shaft and diverting 
it into the 2 Left Panel, and thereby achieving temporary "compli- 
ance" with the Davis notice. Assistant mine foreman Merle Rhodes 
testified that he was against the erection of the curtain because of the 
danger "of the gas accumulating" in the upper portions of 2SEM. 
Once Davis left the mine the curtain blocking 2SEM was taken down. 

However, there is nothing in the record to suggest that the ventila- 
tion problem uncovered by Davis in the 2 Left panel on March 8, 
was ever actually corrected. As a matter of fact, on the morning of 
March 9th, ventilation problems were once again experienced in the 
2 Left panel. According to testimony, on the morning of March 9th, 
at approximately 11:30 A.M., Virgil Coots, the section foreman killed 
in the explosion — called James Bentley, Scotia's assistant foreman 
responsible for ventilation, and reported that he had "just lost his 
air" in the 2 Left panel. Bentley said that he told Coots to check air 
curtains. At about this same time the two railmen were moving their 
locomotives into the upper portion of 2SEM; the explosion occurred 
at approximately 11:35 A.M. 

While we do not know the precise conditions which existed in either 
the 2 Left panel or the upper portion of 2SEM during the period 
immediately prior to the explosion, it is known that the 2 Left panel 
suffering ventilation problem-. We also know that the environ- 
ment in the upper portion of 2SEM was unknown to anyone, and that 
there may have been at least one source liberating methane gas. 
From the fact that the explosion occurred at all, it must be assumed 
that ventilation in the upper portion of 2SEM was inadequate to 



41 

flush out the dangerous concentrations of methane which had to 
exist at the time of the explosion. 

Possible Ignition Sources. — Perhaps the most significant unknown 
factor involved in the March 9th explosion is the source which ignited 
the accumulated methane gas in the upper portion of 2SEM. Since 
the explosion, a great deal of speculation has surrounded possible 
ignition sources. However, given the fact the explosion occurred 
minutes after the two Scotia employees moved their locomotives into 
the section that exploded, it is reasonable to suggest that the ignition 
source was in some way related to this activity. This assumption is 
further substantiated by the fact that the mine rescue teams who 
recovered the bodies, reported that most of the visable explosion- 
related violence in the mine was in the immediate area of the loco- 
motives. The teams reported that the battery lids on the locomotives 
had been blown off, the mine roof and walls showed evidence of a 
violent explosion, and debris w r as scattered throughout the area of 
the locomotives. 

As for the specific ignition source, the speculation has ranged from 
the possibility that the men were smoking to the possibility that the 
automatic compressor on one of the locomotives fitted with air brakes 
caused an electric arc or spark which ignited the methane. Other 
possible sources include a spark or arc resulting from a roof fall, 
unloading the steel rails, friction from the locomotives, and faulty 
electrical equipment or wiring. 

Smoking. — Although smoking in a working area of a mine is pro- 
hibited by law, it nevertheless does occur. However, in the case of 
Scotia, there is no evidence to indicate that smoking caused the 
ignition. During the MESA investigation hearings, all those asked 
the question stated that they never witnessed anyone smoking in the 
Scotia mine. In addition, the rescue teams who recovered the bodies 
stated that no smoking materials were found. Also, no evidence was 
presented during the investigation hearings to indicate that any of 
the victims had smoking materials in their possession. 

Roof Fall. — Hocks falling from a mine roof or rib often produce 
sparks when they hit steel rails or the mine floor. However, while a 
rock fall may have occurred, the circumstantial evidence reported 
by the rescue teams indicates the absence of any such occurrence. 

Unloading of Steel Rails. — The two men and their locomotives were 
in 2SEM to unload and store steel track rails which were loaded on 
cars being pushed by the locomotives. There is a possibility that one 
or more of these rails may have fallen off the cars or may have been 
unloaded in such a way so as to cause an ignition spark. On this 
possibility, however, there is no evidence at all. 

Friction Sparks from Locomotives. — An ignition spark may have been 
created by the wheels of the locomotives and/or their cars if at any time 
it become necessary for a quick start or hard stop. Such a spark could 
have been caused by the friction of the metal wheels against the metal 
track rails. As to this possibility, there is no evidence. 

Electricity. — Prior to the first explosion, there were circuits feeding 
electricity into the area of 2SEM. During the recovery operations it 
was found that fuse boxes in the area had been subjected to intense 
heat and may have short-circuited. Another possibility is that an 
electric wire may have been looped across the rail tracks and that 
the locomotives may have severed the wire causing an ignition spark. 



42 

Locomotive and Compressor. — Of the two locomotives taken into 
2SEM on the morning of March 9, 1976, one was of a questionable 
nature due to the automatic compressor which governed its air brake 
system. This particular machine was a Goodman Locomotive initially 
purchased in 1942 and subsequently acquired by Scotia. This loco- 
motive was originally fitted with hydraulic and manual brakes. 
However, the original braking system was inadequate to control the 
locomotive on steep grades, and several times at the Scotia mine it 
had "run away . . . and imbedded itself in the rib." To improve the 
braking system, air brakes were installed on this machine, with a one- 
horsepower compressor and an open type pressure control switch. 
Thus, the machine automatically monitored the air pressure hi the 
braking system and switched on the compressor whenever it was 
necessary to maintain the braking pressure; Testimony indicated that 
this compressor "kicked on" about cvsvy 15 or 20 minutes. Whenever 
the air compressor was engaged the control switch would cause a 
substantial arc. The testimony at the hearings unanimously agreed 
that the arc caused by the compressor would have been more than 
sufficient to ignite an explosive concentration of methane. It should be 
noted that due to this type of "open spark" generator, this locomotive 
probably should not nave been used in this section of the mine. 
Other than the arc created by the automatic compressor there i< 
also the possibility that an ignition spark resulted from the batteries 
which powered the locomotives, or from some other mechanical 
source related to the locomotive. 

Given the fact that the second explosion of March 11th occurred 
in the same general area as the March 9th explosion, there is some 
question as to whether the first explosion ignition source will ever 
be conclusively determined. Beyond what is outlined above, any 
further analysis of possible ignition sources related to the first explo- 
sion must await the reopening of the mine and a thorough scientific 
investigation of the physical evidence. 

Safety Status of the Six Trapped Miners. — As previously discussed 
in this report, six of the fifteen miners killed in the first explosion 
survived the initial blast but subsequently suffocated to death. The 
record contains professional testimony to the effect that these six 
miners, who barricaded themselves in an air pocket near the face of 
the 2 Left panel off 2SEM and who suffocated when their self-rescue 
breathing apparatus' became inoperable — probably could have saved 
themselves simply by walking out of the mine following the explosion. 
It has also been determined from the record that Scotia's safety 
training program was a "sham" and that fire andf evacuation drills 
were nearly nonexistent at the mine. In addition, it has been 
determined that there was little if any emergency survival equipment 
(e.g., oxygen masks, barricading curtains or rebreathers) stored in 
Scotia's underground working areas. 

From all of this, it can be assumed that had the six miners been 
properly trained in disaster and evacuation procedures, and 
they had access to the proper survival equipment, they possibly 
could have saved themselves. 

II. PERIOD FROM THE FIRST TO THE SECOND EXPLOSION 

The first explosion at the Scotia mine occurred at about 1 1 :35 a.m. 
on March 9, followed some 60 hours later by a second explosion at 



43 

approximately 11:20 p.m. on March 11. Throughout this entire period, 
except for a few hours immediately following the first explosion, the 
Scotia mine was under MESA's effective control. MESA supervised 
the rescue and recovery operations and was responsible for all relevant 
decisions and actions, including (he decision to send 13 men into the 
mine on March 11, eleven of whom were killed in ihe explosion that 
day. Thus, the committee staff believes that if responsibility for the 
second tragedy is to be assessed, then that responsibility must resl with 
MESA. 

Based upon our research and investigation, it has been determined 
that there were at least three major issues involved in the second 
explosion: 

1. The environmental status of the mine following the first 
explosion. 

2. Possible ignition sources involved in the second explosion. 

3. The nature of MESA's decisions between the two explosions. 
Environmental Status oj the Mine. — Based upon information ob- 
tained from the rescue, recovery and investigation teams that went 
into the mine after the first explosion, the following is known with 
respect to the prevailing environmental conditions: 

• Nearly all the mine damage resulting from the first explosion 
was found in the area of the two locomotives located in the upper 
portions of 2 SEM; 

• Dangerous concentrations of methane and carbon monoxide were 
found in 2 SEM; 

• Work crews were unable to restore adequate ventilation to 2 
SEM; 

• A hazardous roof condition was found to have developed at the 
entrance of 2 SEM; 

• The upper portions of 2 SEM where the second explosion origi- 
nated were not inspected or fire bossed for hazardous conditions. 

The rescue teams that went into the mine following the first ex- 
plosion on March 9, reported that they observed explosion-related 
mine damage in that section of 2 SEM approximately 1,000 feet from 
the face. John Collins, captain of the National Mines rescue team, 
told the House-Senate Committee that "the entire area was 
charred . . . Everything was charred from the fresh air base where we 
started, all the way up to the face" (approximately 1,000 feet). In 
addition, the rescue teams reported that a number of air stoppings 
had been blown out and the battery lids on the two locomotives had 
been blown off. 

The rescue teams also reported heavy and dangerous concentra- 
tions of methane gas and carbon monoxide in the upper portions of 
2 SEM. Collins said that the last report his team made from the face 
of 2 SEM indicated 5 percent methane, 15 to 16 percent oxygen and 
a "CO reading". Collins admitted that the methane concent rati.);: 
could have been higher but the measuring equipment only had a 
5 percent scale. Other rescue teams confirmed methane readings of as 
high as 5 percent and heavy carbon monoxide concentrations. A^ 
will be discussed more fully below, these methane and CO measuree 
merits by the rescue teams, recorded in the early morning hours of 
March 10, were the last to be taken in 2 SEM. From the time th- 
rescue teams recovered the last two bodies near the locomotives. 



44 

nothing more was known about the environmental eonditions in 2 
SEM. 

Upon entering the mine on March 9, the rescue teams found that 
they could not advance their fresh air base beyond the entrance of 

'2 SEM, and had to recover the bodies of the two locomotive men 
under self-contained breathing equipment. Following the recovery of 
the bodies, attempts were made to restore ventilation to 'J SEM. 
On March 10, work crews worked until midnight attempting to 
restore ventilation but to no avail. According to William Clemons, 
the MESA official in charge of the entire rescue and recovery op 
tion, "We could not get air in there (in 2 SEM)". 

Also, on March 10, a hazardous roof condition was found to i 
at the entrance to 2 SEM. The roof was temporarily supported until 
the work crew was withdrawn from the mine at about midnight. 

Prior to the first work crew going into the mine on March 10. in 
the first attempt to restore ventilation, however, that portion of the 
mine where they were to work — not near 2 SEM — had been inspected 
and firebossed. Clemons stated, 'Trior to anyone entering the mine 
that afternoon (March 10), a fireboss examination was made in the 
areas that required such an examination." In addition, a second lire- 
boss examination was conducted on the morning of March 11, at 8:14 
A.M., prior to the thirteen man work crew entering the mine at 4:15 
P.M. later that same da} T . According to MESA Administrator Robert 
Barrett: 

The MESA and Scotia Coal Company men who began to enter the mine at 
8:14 A.M. on March 11, were to examine ventilation controls and to make exami- 
nations for hazardous conditions. This is a standard procedure to determine 
whether it is safe for men to enter the mine. This in effect was a prc-shift ex;i mi- 
nation. These examinations were completed. The examiners determined that the 
mine was safe, and a work crew began entering the mine at 4:15 P.M. (emphasis 
added) 

While it is clear that these two pre-shift examinations did in fact 
take place, it is also clear that they were both limited to that portion 
of the mine where the two crews were intended to work, which excluded 
2 SEM. Ben Taylor told the joint House-Senate Committee, "two 
southeast main themselves were not firebossed." Clemons testified 
that, "I personally instructed no one to go into two southeast main 
..." According to Barrett: 

... an examination of the entire mine had been made using company fire- 
bosses accompanied by MESA inspectors . . . except for two southeast sections. 
Now, that section we had given orders that no one was to go in there — I shouldn't 
say no one — they were given instructions that no one was to touch anything 
because of the possibility of destruction of evidence. The only people who were in 
that section after I left was oar MESA mine rescue team on the night before (the early 
morning hours of March 10). (emphasis added.) 

Thus at the time the thirteen men entered the mine on March 11, 
the environmental status of the 2 SEM was unknown. How T ever, what 
was known was that the last reports from the rescue teams on March 9 
indicated dangerous concentrations of methane gas in an area where 
ventilation had not been restored. As will be discussed more fully 
below, there is no indication in the record that any responsible MESA 
official adequately considered the possible hazards involved in sending 
the thirteen men into the mine on March 11. 

Possible Ignition Sources. — As in the case of the first explosion, the 
ignition source which caused the second explosion has yet to be con- 



45 

clusively determined. However, unlike the first explosion, there is 

evidence indicating that the responsible MESA officials failed to 
seriously consider at least one possible ignition source that was known 
to exist prior to the second explosion — the Goodman locomotive fitted 
with an automatic air compressor. 

As was discussed earlier in this report, the Goodman locomotive was 
one of the two that was sent into the upper portions of 2 SEM on 
March 9, immediately prior to the first explosion. The air compr 
on this locomotive was an integral part of the machine's braking 
system and automatically "kicked on" when the air pressure dropped 
below a certain point. According to testimony, the compiv<-or "kicked 
on" about every 15 or 20 minutes, and whenever engaged it caused a 
substantial arc which was more than sufficient to ignite an explosive 
concentration of methane gas. This locomotive-compressor remained 
in the mine following the first explosion and remains there today. 
In addition, there is no evidence to indicate that the locomotive- 
compressor was not operable — kicking on and off — throughout the 
period between the two explosions. 

The two MESA officials who had the primary responsibility for 
considering the locomotive-compressor as a possible ignition source 
prior to the second explosion were William demons and Ben Taylor. 
Both testified that they were aware of the locomotive-compressor but 
never seriously considered it a hazard. 

The first of the two to become aware of the nature of the locomotive 
was Ben Taylor who, along with Richard Combs (Scotia's general 
mine foreman), firebossed a part of the mine on March 10. According 
to the Joint House-Senate hearing transcript: 

Taylor. (At) some point during this examination (fireboss inspection), during 
my conversation with Combs, I became aware that there were air brakes on one 
of the locomotives and the air brakes indicated a compressor. 

Senator Williams. In other words, you did know there was this compressor 
down there, is that right? 

Taylor. I became aware of it, yes, during this pre-shift examination. 

Williams. Was it discussed that this could be a compressor that comes on auto- 
matically? Can it be a site of ignition? 

Taylor. I believe we talked about that . . . 

Williams. You did? 

Taylor. Yes. 

Later in his testimony Taylor said: 

... I never became aware that there was any danger of this compressor . . . there 
was idle talk between Combs and I ... I never thought about it again ... it was 
something that did not occur in my mind, that it was a danger. 

According to Richard Combs, "He (Taylor) said that he understood 
that there was a motor in there with a compressor on it, something 
about spark, and I said, 'Yes, it's in that area.' " 

While Taylor said that he did not give the locomotive-compressor 
much thought, he obviously gave the matter some consideration be- 
cause the next day, March 11, after the 13 men entered the mine but 
at least three hours before the explosion occurred, Taylor told demons 
about the locomotive. 

As indicated above, Clemons was the MESA official responsible 
for directing the entire on-site rescue, recovery and investigation 
operations. He assumed that role shortly after the March 9 explosion 
and continued in it until sometime after the March 11 explosion. With 



46 

respect to the locomotive-compressor issue, demons told the House- 
Semite ( Jommittee: 

There has been considerable speculation as to what ignited the explosive 
methane-air mixture in the second explosion and much of that speculation baa 
been focused on the air compressor on the locomotive. In view of this, I consider 
ir appropriate for me to disclose what knowledge I had of the compressor. Some- 
time during the early evening hours of March 11, 1970, the exact time I cannot 
recall, but would estimate it as being between 7:00 and 9:00 P.M. (the explosion 
occurred at 11 :20 P.M.), Ben Taylor told me that Richard Combs, Acting Mine 
Foreman, during their pro-shift examination on the previous evening, had men- 
tioned to him that one of the locomotives in 2 Southeast main was equipped with 
air brakes. Mr, Taylor told me that later he started associating air brakes with a 
compressor. He then commented that this could have been the cause of the first 
explosion. The manner in which Mr. Taylor related the information to me did not 
indicate that he was concerned about the situation and did not arouse any concern 
on my part. The conversation was very brief and was the first time that I had 
heard about the compressor during the 56 to 58 hours since the first explosion. If 
it had ever entered my mind, after learning of the percentage of methane and 
oxygen present in 2 Southeast main that there was an ignition source present, I 
would have immediately withdrawn all men from the mine. 

Thus, we have two responsible MESA officials, both coal mine safety 
professionals, who were aware of the locomotive-compressor but 
neither considered it important enough to fully explore the hazardous 
possibilities of it being an ignition source. In his testimony before the 
llouse-Senate Committee, MESA Administrator Robert Barrett 
admitted that there had been a breakdown in communications during 
the period between the two explosions. We agree, and one of the most 
critical examples of that breakdown concerned the hazardous nature 
of the locomotive as a possible ignition source. 

The Nature of MESA's Decisions. — Of the many rescue and recovery 
decisions made by MESA in the period between the two explosions 
perhaps the two most critical were : 

1. The decision to immediately proceed with the investigation 
into the causes of the first explosion; and 

2. The fateful decision to send the 13-man work crew into the 
mine on March 11. 

Before detailing the nature of these two decisions, the MESA 
decision-making structure at the mine should be noted. As indicated, 
the chief operational MESA official responsible for directing the 
rescue and recovery operations was William Clemons, Assistant Dis- 
trict Manager of the MElSA Pikeville, Kentucky Office. Clemons 
assumed responsibility upon arriving at the mine at about 3:15 P.M. 
on March 9, and continued in this capacity — with the concurrence 
of MESA's top officials including the Administrator Robert Barrett — 
until after the second explosion on March 11. During the House-Senate 
Committee hearings, Clemons testified that while he had extensive 
training in mine rescue and recovery work, he had never before been 
involved in the aftermath of a mine explosion. According to the 
hearing transcript: 

Williams. Had you ever before directed, or been a part of a rescue-recovery 
effort following a mine explosion? 

Clemons. No, sir, I have not — I have had extensive training in mine rescue, 
and then been a member of a mine rescue team . . . 

In terms of his responsibility at the Scotia mine, the following is 
instructive: 

Perkins. Who was in charge? Who took over and who was directing the activ- 
ities at the mine site after the first explosion? 



47 

Clemons. I was directing the rescue and recovery activities. 
Perkins. Was there anybody over you? 
Clemons. Anybody over me? 

Perkins. Giving you orders, or were you in charge of the sole activities there 
in making the decisions governing what was to be done? 
Clemons. I was making the decisions. 

While Clemons was in fact making the decisions at the mine there 
were many other MESA officials with whom he conferred and with 
whom he cleared his major decisions. These officials included Robert 
Barrett — MESA Administrator; John Crawford — MESA Assistant 
Administrator; R. Peluso — MESA Assistant Administrator for Tech- 
nical Support; Jack Stevenson — MESA Chief of the Ventilation 
Group; Monroe West — MESA Sub-District Manager; Charles 
Sample — MESA Inspection Supervisor; Ben Taylor — MESA Inspec- 
tion Supervisor; Lawrence Phillips — MESA District Manager and 
demon's immediate supervisor; W. R. Compton — MESA District 
Manager; and Herman Lucas — MESA Coal Mine Inspection 
Supervisor. 

In addition to these MESA officials, others with input into the 
decision making process were representatives from the Kentucky 
Department of Mines and Minerals, the Scotia Coal Company, and 
Scotia miners' representatives. 

The decision to immediately begin the investigation into the causes 
of the first explosion was taken less than 24 hours after the explosion 
was reported. Clemons testified that at about 5:00 A.M. on March 10, 
after the bodies had been taken out of the mine, he met with MESA 
officials Barrett, Crawford, Pelso, and Compton. At that meeting it 
was decided to begin the investigation on March 11, once the necessary 
preparatory work had been accomplished. At this time, the damaged 
roof condition was unknown and the anticipated work was considered 
routine. According to Clemons, "It was my conjecture during the 
conference that the exploration work that remained in 2 Southeast 
main entries would be only a matter of routine and could be accom- 
plished easily without any undue hazards once additional ventilation 
was made available . . . the other conferees shared my views ... I 
assumed MESA's position of the responsibility for the work of ob- 
taining the additional ventilation and exploring the remainder of the 
2 Southeast entries so that the area could be made ready for the 
investigating team." 

Throughout the investigation into the Scotia mine disaster, the 
question of "wiry was there such a hurry to begin the investigation" 
was never fully addressed. The officials who made the decision knew, 
or should have known, that there were dangerous concentrations of 
methane in 2 SEM and that the rescue teams had not been able to 
restore ventilation in that area. In addition, no one had any idea of 
what caused the initial ignition. Given these conditions, the com- 
mittee staff believes that the decision to proceed should have been 
considered with more caution and as something other than merely 
routine. 

In an attempt to implement MESA's decision to proceed with the 
investigation, a work crew, preceded by a fireboss inspection, entered 
the mine on the afternoon of March 10. As noted, this crew worked 
until midnight attempting to restore the necessary ventilation but 
failed. Also, during this time the damaged roof was discovered and the 
crew was withdrawn. - 



48 

While the initial decision bo proceed with the investigation night 
have some justification, it is very hard to find any justification for the 

rapidity of the decision to send another work crew back into the mine 
on March li. It is also difficult to justify the lack of caution exhil 
by MESA in Bending the March 1 1 crew into the mine. 

cording to demons, after the March 10th crew had been with- 
drawn, he asked Jack Stevenson — a MESA ventilation expert — to 
prepare a set of recommendations "as to what was necessary to acquire 

additional ventilation in 2 Southeast main." A few hours later, 
(lemons held a meeting to discuss future actions, demons told the 
House-Senate Committee, "A meeting was held at 2:05 A.M., March 
11, 1976, to discuss how to proceed in carrying out Mr. Steve 
recommendations . . . This meeting was attended by both MESA 
and Scotia Coal Company officials . . ." demons said that based upon 
the meeting a tentative plan was developed, calling for a second work 
crew to reenter the mine later that day. However, "before leaving the 
mine I informed everyone concerned that the plan was a tentative 
plan and that no part of it was to be implemented until I discussed it 
with my superiors". Clemons stated that he called Assistant Admin- 
istrator, John Crawford at about 5:00 A.M. and informed him of the 
plan; "Mr. Crawford concurred with the plan as I described it to him." 

By 3:00 P.M. that same day, March 11, Clemons had returned to 
the mine and found the work crew prepared to enter the mine. 
Clemons told the House-Senate Committee that after the crew 
entered the mine and began its work without incident, he left the 
mine at about 9:00 P.M., leaving Ben Taylor in charge. (At the 
time Clemons left the mine he was aware of the locomotive in 2 
SEM). Clemons testified that, "At about midnight, just as I was 
getting into bed, Mr. Taylor telephoned me that he had unconfirmed 
reports of a second explosion." 

In terms of the decision to send the crew into the mine on March 11, 
the question must be raised as to why was there such a hurry to 
proceed and why was such little concern expressed over the possible 
hazards of reentering a mine where something was obviously wrong 
with the ventilation and where dangerous concentrations of methane 
were known to exist? Why did Taylor and Clemons fail to appreciate 
the possible hazards of the locomotive-compressor? 

While it is impossible to provide definitive answers to these ques- 
tions, the questions themselves must be raised. As a possible insight 
into the manner in which the decision was made to send the March 
11th crew mto the mine, the following exchange between Senator 
Williams and Clemons is instructive: 

Williams. At the 2:05 A.M. (March 11) meeting . . . did you talk about the 
amount of methane that you knew was down there? 

Clemons. No sir. 

Williams. Did you talk about any agents that might cause a spark? 

Clemons. No sir. I am not concerned with methane in itself. 

Williams. You know I am surprised. You started (your testimony) when 
you first arrived (at these hearings), talking about calculated risk, calculated 
risk to go back into the mine. Now, you just said that you did not calculate 
any (risk) — you did not put any of these factors into calculating the risk of going 
in there with a team. 

Clemons. The statement I made about the calculated risk is when you first 
go into a mine after a mine explosion. 

Williams. Yes, I know that. But now you are — you did not calculate before 
sending the working team in there. 



49 

Clemons. The exploration that was performed during the initial rescue and 
recovery operation did not disclose any fires, did not disclose any smoke, and 
this was a pretty good indication to me that there was not an ignition source 
present. 

Williams. Well now, what was the last reading, the last reading before all 
communication was stopped, because there was this second explosion? What was 
the last reading on methane and the last reading on carbon monoxide? 

Clemons. The last — in two southeast main? 

Williams. The last reading that you got out of that mine before you made the 
decision at the 2 A.M. meeting to send the team in to bolt the roof? You said 
you did not talk about methane and you did not talk about carbon monoxide. 
What were the readings that you talked about, that you would have talked about? 

Clemons. From the time that the rescue teams had left the locomotives and 
recovered those bodies, and the bodies were brought to the surface, there was 
no one in by the fresh air base at the mouth of the two left, mouth of two southeast 
main. However, a rescue team did go over to the entry and make the methane 
and carbon tests. 

Williams. That is the only possible reading you get? No one went down by 
the locomotive? 

Clemons. Yes sir. 

Williams. It just seems to me that that was the most critical thing to know 
before sending people back there to work, what the conditions were with the 
information you had. 

Clemons. How was I going to determine what the conditions were in by the 
fresh air base? I knew I had 4 percent (methane) at the locomotive. 

From this dialog it is clear that Clemons, at the time the March 
11 tli crew went into the mine, was operating on the same assumptions 
he expressed at the March 10 meeting with top MESA officials; that 
the work to be done "would be only a matter of routine and could 
be accomplished easily without any undue hazards." It should be 
noted here that demons' decisions were made with the express and 
specific approval of top MESA officials. 

Before concluding, one further point should be made with respect 
to the period between the two explosions, and that has to do with the 
information provided to those 13 men who went into the mine on 
March 11. According to the two survivors, Rick Parker and Ernest 
Collins, they were never briefed on the conditions in the mine: 

Perkins. Let me ask both of you gentlemen who survived . . . were you 
advised of the conditions of the mine before you went back in, either of you? 

Parker. No, sir, we were not briefed in any way. The only instructions that 
were given before we went inside the mine was by Mr. Rick Keene, who told us 
to make sure all the electrical supply was off going up into two southeast main, 
and also by our mine boss, Mr. Marvin Mangrum, which told us about the work 
that we were to perform over two southeast main. 

Perkins. You were not briefed in any way? 

Parker. No way at all. 

Perkins. Why was it that they took people in the mine without briefing them, 
people with no experience? (At least one of those killed on March 11, had never 
before been underground in a coal mine.) 

Collins. I do not know of any. 

III. PERIOD FROM THE SECOND EXPLOSION TO 
THE SEALING OF THE MINE 

The period immediately following the second explosion is character- 
ized more by events than issues. As for the decisions and actions taken 
during this period, we have no particular quarrel with MESA. Given 
the prevailing circumstances and conditions, the committee staff 
feels that everything done immediately after the second explosion 
was appropriate and reasonable. 



50 

Afl noted above, the 13-man work crew entered tlie mine at approxi- 
mately 4:15 P.M. on March 1 1. Their assignment included ventilation 
restoration work and roof bolting the damaged roof at the entrance to 
2 SEM. To accomplish this latter task, a roof bolting machine had to 

be moved from another section of the mine to the 2 SEM entrance. 
Also, a certain amount of repair work to the roof bolting machine 
was necessary. 

Of the 13 men, 3 were MESA officials and 10 were employees of the 
Scotia Coal Company. According to the testimony of the two sur- 
vivors — Rick Parker and Ernest Collins — they had taken the cable 
for the roof bolting machine back to connect it to a transformer. 
Parker and Collins testified that they were in the process of changing 
the plugs on the cable, prior to plugging it into the transformer, when 
the explosion occurred at about 11:20 P.M. At the time of the explo- 
sion, the survivors were approximately 150 feet from the main work 
crew. Following the explosion, Parker and Collins put on their self- 
rescue equipment and walked out of the mine. It was on their way 
out that they called the surface and reported the explosion. The two 
survivors arrived at the surface at about 12:12 A.M. on March 12. 

At 1 :00 A.M., MESA's national office in Arlington, Virginia was 
notified of the second explosion. Orders were given to airlift MESA 
mine rescue teams back to the mine, and to "reactivate MESA's Mine 
Emergency Operations Plan." The same mining companies that had 
previously sent rescue teams to Scotia responded a second time. Top 
MESA officials, including Robert Barrett, left Arlington for the Scotia 
mine at 2:20 A.M. and arrived at 5:30 A.M. 

According to the testimony of William demons, he was home when 
informed of the second explosion at approximately midnight. He 
immediately left for the mine, arriving at 1 :00 A.M. 

Upon my arrival, I was informed that a second explosion had occurred, that two 
men had escaped from the mine and that eleven were unaccounted for. I talked to 
the two men who had escaped and got all the information they could furnish me. 
From this information, particularly from the extent of the forces, it was obvious to 
me that it might be necessary to utilize the air shaft in by 2 Southeast main in the 
rescue effort. With this in mind and no present means of entering the shaft, I made 
arrangements for mobil cranes to be sent to the shaft. There was a constant in- 
crease of CO (carbon monoxide) — from 800 ppm to 2,000 ppm — at the fan which 
indicated a strong possibility of a mine fire and caused much concern for a period 
of about two hours. I then asked several Scotia Coal Company officials, responsible 
officials from nearby coal companies who were present, and several MESA officials 
to meet with me for the purpose of discussing the approach we should take in the 
rescue efforts . . . 

Some felt that the effort should be approached from the shaft and some felt that 
we should approach it from the main slope entries. After listening to all their views, 
I decided that we would approach it from both directions and that the final 
approach would be dictated by the conditions encountered. 

According to Clemons, the initial entry into the mine was made by 
two MESA officials on foot at the slope entry followed by two rescue 
team members. The rescue team members traveled to near the inter- 
section of 2 East main before observing any evidence of violence. They 
continued up 2 East, about 9 crosscuts, where they discovered that 
the ventilation was reversed. The men were immediately withdrawn 
from the mine, and two rescue teams were sent to the entrance of 2 
East to establish a fresh air base and to make an exploratory investiga- 
tion to determine the extent of ventilation damage in the area. These 
rescue teams reported that an overcast had been damaged near the 



51 

entrance to 2 East and that some 126,000 cubic feet of air per minute 
was being short-circuited at that point. 

demons stated that based on these reports, it was decided to with- 
draw the rescue teams from the 2 East area and to concentrate all 
rescue efforts via the air shaft. 

Prior to the rescue teams entering the air shaft in the area of 2 SEM, 
it had been inspected by MESA, Company, and miner representative 
officials. This examination found the ventilation controls intact and the 
air flowing in the proper direction and course. Clemons then ordered 
the rescue teams to enter the shaft where he briefed them at about 9 :45 
A.M. on March 12. 

According to Clemons, "Following my instructions closely, the 
teams advanced bare-faced to the entrance of 2 Southeast main where 
they found the eleven men (approximately 12:00 noon) . . . Since all 
eleven were dead, and I had drastic fears of another explosion, I told 
the rescue teams to return to the shaft bottom as quickly as possible 
(from which they were withdrawn from the mine without recovering 
the eleven bodies.)" 

According to MESA Administrator Barrett, who had been at the 
mine since 5:30 A.M. on March 12, during the remainder of March 12 
and on March 13, meetings were held among representatives of mine 
management, the Scotia Employees Association, the Kentucky 
Department of Mines and Minerals, and MESA, joined by representa- 
tives from the Secretary's Office of the Department of the Interior . . . 
the consensus decision resulting from these meetings was to seal the 
Scotia mine." Thus, on March 19, at 2:10 P.M., all openings to the 
Scotia mine were closed. 

IV. PERIOD FROM THE MINE SEALING TO THE PRESENT 

Since the mine was sealed on March 19, a number of Scotia related 
events have transpired including: 

• One day of public hearings in Washington, D.C., conducted by 
the Senate Subcommittee on Labor on March 24, 1976; 

• The convening of a MESA investigation panel which held nine 
da}^s of public hearings on April 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 27, 28, 29, and 30, 
1976, in Whitesburg, Kentucky; 

• Three days of public hearings conducted by a joint Committee 
of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate 
Labor and Public Welfare Committee on May 7, 1976, in Whites- 
burg, Kentucky, and on May 13 and June 16, 1976, in Washing- 
ton, D.C.; 

• MESA's announcement on June 18, 1976, of tentative plans to 
reopen the Scotia mine ; and 

• On July 16, 1976, the reopening of the mine was begun. 
Throughout this period there have been two issues that have 

generated some public controversy: 

1. The composition of the MESA investigation panel; 

2. The manner in which the 11 bodies are being recovered. 
With respect to the composition of the MESA investigation panel, 

the following individuals served as members: 

• Robert Barrett, MESA administrator, panel chairman; 

• Thomas Mascolino, Assistant Solicitor, U.S. Department of 
Interior; 



52 

<• Fred Karem, Deputy Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of 
Interior; 

• Harrold Kirkpatrick. Commissioner of the Kentucky Depart- 
ment of Mines and Minerals; 

• George Eadie. Professor of General Engineering:, University of 

Til' ° • 

Illinois; 

• George McPhail, Senior Mine Rescue OfRcer, Province of On- 
tario. Canada. 

Of this group, the first factor to be noted is that two of the mem- 
bers — Barrett and Kirkpatrick — were directly involved in the events 
which occurred at the Scotia mine following the first explosion. It is 
not our intention to question the integrity of either man — both are 
outstanding professionals in their field — however, the very fact that 
they were investigators of events to which they were parties should 
be noted for the record. While there is nothing in the record to suggest 
that either man conducted himself in a manner detrimental to the 
investigation, the fact remains that both, in varying degrees, partici- 
pated in the decisions that were made following the first explosion. 

The second point to be noted is the glaring absence from the 
MESA panel of any miner representatives. Even though the Scotia 
mine was, in effect, a non-union mine, the miners who work at the 
Scotia mine have a direct and continuing interest in the twin 
disasters. It seems to us that a miner representative, at the very 
least, would have added to the panel's credibility. 

The MESA hearings themselves have been subject to some criticism 
by the news media, Scotia miners, and company officials because of 
the manner in which they were conducted. The only witnesses to be 
called were those selected by MESA and there was little effective 
cross-examination by anyone other than the MESA panel. 

In terms of the recovery of the 11 bodies that have remained 
entombed in the Scotia mine since March 11, the manner in which 
they are being recovered is questionable. Following the decision to 
reopen the mine, MESA Administrator Barrett assured the families 
of the victims that the recovery would proceed as quickly as possible. 
Barrett was reported to have initially stated that the recovery would 
proceed through the ventilation shaft which enters the mine some 3,000 
feet from where the bodies are located. It was estimated that such a 
route would enable the bodies to be recovered in about a week. 

However, Barrett has reversed himself on the recovery route and 
has approved a Scotia Company plan that approaches the recovery 
of the bodies through the main shaft. Under this plan, it has been 
estimated that the recovery would take a minimum of 60 days. At 
the present time reports from the mine indicate that the recovery 
operation is confronted with difficulties due to mine flooding. 

The point to be made is that by following the Company's plan 
the mine will be placed back into production much sooner than if 
the recovery took place through the ventilation shaft. Thus, it appears 
to the committee staff that MESA — winch still effectively controls 
the mine — acquiesced to the Company's production oriented wishes, 
rather than insisting on the more humane approach of affording the 
families of the eleven men the opportunity of providing their loved 
ones with a decent and respectful burial. 



53 

Chart A 

SCOTIA COAL MINE-SUMMARY OF VIOLATION NOTICES AND CLOSURE ORDERS, MAY 13, 1970 TO MAR. 9, 1976 

1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 





Closure 


Violations 


orders 


63 


10 


41 


1 


86 


8 


53 


3 


28 





10 


3 


71 


4 


23 


7 


28 


2 


17 


1 



Total number of violation notices issued 79 94 156 116 103 214 92 

Total number of closure orders issued 6 23 13 24 18 23 3 

Total number of 104(a) closure orders issued (imminent 

danger) 5 7 4 9 5 9 

Total number of violation notices and closure orders 85 117 169 140 121 237 95 

Source: Mine Safety Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of the Interior. 

Chart B 

SCOTIA COAL MINE-SUMMARY OF SAFETY AND HEALTH VIOLATIONS, JANUARY 1974 TO FEBRUARY 1976 

Total number of— 

Category of violation 

Ventilation— 30 CFR, pt. 75, subpt. D 

Electrica lequipment general— 30 CFR, pt. 75, subpt. F 

Combustible materials and rock dusting— 30 CFR, pt 75, subpt F 

Fire protection— 30 CFR, pt. 75, subpt. L._ 

Dust standards— 30 CFR, pt. 70, subpt. B 

Trailing cables and grounding— 30 CFR, pt 75, subpts. G and H _ 

Miscellaneous— 30 CFR, pt 75, subpt. R 

Roof support— 30 CFR, pt. 75, subpt. C 

Mandatory safety standards, surface coal mines and surface work areas of uhderground 

coal mines— 30 CFR, pt 77 _ 

Maps, hoisting and mantrips— 30 CFR, pt 75. subpts. M and __ _. 

Total _ _ 420 39 

Source of data: Senate Subcommittee on Labor— Staff Study. 

Chart C 
Scotia Coal Mine — Summary of ventilation violations, January 197 J^-F ebruary 1976 

Total number 

of times 

violation 

Description of violation was cited 

Not enough air reaching the working face 26 

High methane concentration 7 

Approved ventilation plan not being followed 18 

Line brattice out of position 6 

Methane monitor inoperative 3 

Permanent stopping was installed with incombustible material 1 

Water sprays not provided for the head drive 1 

Fans at new returns section not equipped with a pressure gage and an 

automatic signal device to give alarm 1 

Tests for methane were not being taken at 20-minute intervals 1 

Permanent brattices had not been constructed 2 

Lost coal and coal dust 1 

Source: Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Interior. 

O 



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 

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